Houston vet to receive Congressional Gold Medal
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A World War II veteran from Houston is about to receive one of the nation's highest honors.
Montford Point Marine James Lloyd, 89, will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, presented to him by President Barack Obama at the White House. He helped break the color barrier in the Marines.
At the Military History Museum, artifacts from all American wars will be showcased when it opens in November. But on Wednesday, a Houston veteran will be honored in the nation's capital for making military history.
James and Vernell Lloyd are about to take a trip a lifetime in the making.
"If you think about Montford Point, everybody's between 85 and 95 years of age now," James said.
James was a Montford Point Marine, one of the first African-Americans to serve in the Marines Corps in the 1940s.
Now he and the other remaining Montford Point Marines will receive the nation's highest civilian honor -- the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, not only for service during World War II, but for facing hostility at home too.
We were in Washington, DC in November when Japanese American World War II veterans received their Congressional Gold Medal for their service in the face of discrimination. Now it's the Montford Point Marines' turn, 70 years after FDR signed the order to integrate the Marines.
"The few that they have left, think about all of those that are gone," Vernell said.
The Montford Point Marines are named for the place where they went to basic training, the segregated Montford Point at Camp Lejeune. They lived in tents instead of barracks and marched in mud, not pavement.
"That's when the Marine Corps finally thought that we were Marines," James said.
From Montford Point, they went overseas. Lloyd served in the Pacific, and in the face of discrimination, before the Civil Rights Movement, the men had something to prove.
"We had comments to go home, we don't need you, but we determined that we would stay," James said.
But Wednesday brings long-overdue recognition, not only for being the first African-Americans to serve in the Marines but for making a difference for generations to come.
"We showed them that we were men and we loved our country," James said.
Montford Point and segregated training in the Marines were done away with in 1949, according to James. He says he is looking forward to seeing his buddies, some of whom he hasn't seen since the 1940s.
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