About 400 Black Marine veterans recently received the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor at two award ceremonies in Washington, D.C., to pay tribute to the Montford Point Marines. Four hundred of the 20,000 soldiers trained at Montford Point attended the festivities in the capital visitor’s center in Emancipation Hall.

These veterans, known as “Point men” were the first Black Marines. Between 1942- 1949, they were trained, not at the usual boot camps in Parris Island and San Diego, but at a segregated base known as Montford Point in Jacksonville. Their living conditions included what has been described as over-crowded cardboard huts with a single stove to heat each one. The camp was surrounded by a forest that contained mosquitoes, bears, snakes, and alligators.