GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Family and friends gathered with local Marines and political leaders in Downtown Gulfport Wednesday as the men who broke racial barriers by becoming the first African Americans to serve in the Marines were honored.
In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the military to accept African Americans into the military. Those Marines were sent to train at the segregated Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Master Sergeant Fred Ash of Delisle was one of the Marines training at the camp in 1945. He served his country during World War II, The Korean War and Vietnam War before retiring in 1966. He was posthumously recognized at the ceremony. His family accepted a certificate and bronze medal in his honor.
Corporal David Potts of Gulfport was also camped at Montford Point. He said the recognition is long overdue.
"I do feel that it should have been earlier so some of my colleagues that are dead could have been here to experience this," said Cpl. Potts.
Congressman Steven Palazzo was on hand for the ceremony, a fellow Marine himself.
"I was in the Marine Corps back when there weren't Black Marines or weren't White Marines. We were all Green Marines. We're lean fighting machines. We were color blind," Palazzo said.
The men had to fight a battle overseas and here on their own soil. But Corporal Potts says he continued to keep the love in his heart and never thought 70 years later, he would be recognized for his efforts.