NEW ORLEANS — Seven local marines are the newest recipients of the United States Congressional Gold Medal. It’s the highest expression of national appreciation bestowed by Congress.
The Marines all served in World War II, and have since passed away.
What makes the award even more special is that they were the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps since the American Revolution.
The ceremony for the men of honor was 81 years in the making. Seven members of the Montford Point Marines were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service in WWII. The Montford Point Marines were the first African Americans to serve in the Marine Corps since the
American Revolution. They have all passed on, so generations stepped up to accept the recognition.
“My uncle was to be revered. He was a man that had presence, you know, and a spirit that you had to defer to when he came into a room, and his tenacity became my tenacity,” said Preston Alexander, of New York City, the nephew of Granville “Jack” Alexander, Sr.
His uncle, Jack Alexander, used his courage when he tried to save his wife and children during Hurricane Camille in 1969. They all lost their lives.
“He rushed down there to try to save his family. He got there. He tied the boys around him, and he tried to climb a tree, but he couldn’t save them,” said Alexander’s niece Joyce Richardson.
Nolan Marshall’s son accepted his award.
“I learned to persevere, that we could not overcome any obstacle. You could not fail until you quit, and there was never any quitting in him,” said son Nolan Marshall, Jr.
Gilbert Smith’s great-granddaughter became inspired by the marine she’ll never get to meet.
“Yeah, I mean, I’ve always wanted to make an impact on the world. So, this just like lets me know, and gives me, encourage me even more to do so. So that’s pretty cool,” said Dyllan Ellis, 13, Gilbert Smith’s great-granddaughter.
There was a standing ovation when a surprise visitor showed up. Adrian Doucette, 97, is one of the living Montford Point Marines who came to honor his seven comrades.
“A great honor to receive this. I never dreamed it would, and I have to tell you, I traveled a lot because of the Marines,” said Adrian Doucette of Slidell.
“I don’t know that we stand on the shoulders of these heroes. I sit at the feet of my Uncle Jack. That’s the worthy position, I think, given this honor,” said Alexander.
To those men, thank you for your service. Semper Fi.
Of the men honored today, five were from New Orleans. The other two were from Baton Rouge and Donner, La.