Old living Marine receives Medal of Honor
MONTGOMERY CO, Pa. - September 27, 2012 (WPVI) -- A trail-blazing Marine from Montgomery County has received the nation's highest civilian honor, but that's not all that distinguishes Richard Washington from others.'
He is also the oldest living Marine to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
At the age of 102, Richard Washington is finally getting his due.
Richard Washington was among the first African American marines to break the U.S. Marine Corp's strict racial barrier during World War II.
"God bless me, one of these days, I want to be a Marine, but they didn't want me," said Washington.
While other branches of the military had opened the door for blacks, the Marines upheld a policy of exclusion.
"But when the president gave that order in 1942," he said; that's when he was able to enlist.
But it wasn't until after President Roosevelt issued that executive order that all citizens be able to participate in the Marines that Washington enlisted.
He was one of some 20,000 black Marines stationed in Montford Point at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina.
He says it was no Paris Island.
"It was rat infested, snake infested; it was a very bad place, and that's where we had to train," said Washington.
He said he wanted to join the Marines because America has always relied on them for the nation's security.
"Even now, the president says he is going to send 500 Marines to Libya because of the killing of that ambassador," he said.
Washington received the Congressional Gold Medal, this summer, but a knee injury prevented him from making the ceremony in Washington. So the Marines came to him.
His wife, daughter and granddaughter admire the way he served his country during a cruel time in its history.
When asked if he was bitter about the way he was treated, Washington said, "Absolutely not! My mother said you should be thinking about what you are going to do when the change comes."
Another thing Richard Washington said his mother taught him was when you find a block in your path, do everything you can to find a way around it.
u.s. marine corps, pennsylvania, local/state, lisa thomas-laury
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