MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC --
As each day passes, ripples from the past are etched in time and carve out the future. Because of important actions throughout the 1940s, black men were given the chance to join the Marine Corps, allowing countless others to follow in their footsteps.
Six Montford Point Marines visited the Lasseter Theater Air Station, April 12 to provide Marines and sailors with a historical primary military education on their experiences in the Marine Corps as the first black Marines.
Marines from Corporals Course also watched a documentary on the Montford Point Marines before seeing them face to face and hearing their story.
One by one, the Montford Point Marines stood on stage and depicted their story and the lessons they learned from the Corps.
In 1941 there were not many options for black men who wished to enlist due to segregation and black women still were not allowed to join.
“When I was drafted I had two options, Army or Navy,” said Lasalle Vaughn, Sr., a Montford Point Marine. “The only way I could join the Marine Corps was by having at least 70 different signatures on a petition. I still managed to enlist despite the difficulties and was one of the first black men to become a Marine and spent 24 years in retiring as a Sergeant.”
Besides difficulties joining, it was also difficult to pick up rank for them and so there was more responsibility for those senior Marines of lower rank.
“It took me 11 years to pick up Sergeant after Corporal, but by then I had served 24 years and was going into retirement,” Vaughn said. “Back then, picking up Private First Class was a big deal for us.”
Being in the military offers numerous opportunities to take charge and grow in wisdom and maturity because of the amount of responsibility placed on each individual.
“The Corps saved me from being a boy to becoming a man in a small amount of time,” said John A. White, a Montford Point Marine. “After I left the Corps, I also became one of the first black police officers,” White added.
“Joining was the best thing that ever happened to me and to you,” White said to the audience.
The PME concluded with White’s speech last and as each man exited the theater, they were given an appreciative farewell in the form of thanks and handshakes from the Marines and sailors who attended.