Baton Rouge Marine receives Congressional Gold medal | Events
Most people have heard about the Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers--African American pioneeers in the armed services.
But few are familiar with the Montford Point Marines.
Montford Point Camp in North Carolina was where the first Black Marines were trained in the early years of World War II.
Otis Stewart of Baton Rouge was among them.
"When they gave the order to receive Blacks or African Americans they had no where to put them," Stewart says. "Things were segregated. We couldn't mix with the fighters or the Marines on the West Coast so they had no where to go so they had to build Montford Point."
That was in 1942. Now nearly 70 years later, the Marines are being recognized for their service.
Stewart and about 400 other Marines from that era recently received the Congressional Gold Medal. The awards were presented at a ceremony in Washington D.C. in June.
"I felt really good about it because we had never been recognized," Stewart says. "We hadn't been recognized since we left camp so this was really new to us and to me.>
Stewart who is from Port Hudson was drafted in 1943. He served in the Marines until 1946.
"I was able to stay at heaquarters the whole time," he says. "I didn't go overseas."
His wife of 69 years was at Montford Point with him. His oldest daughter Brenda Birkett was born there.
His family including his other daughter Alyce Kelly say they're thrilled for him.
"It's a great honor and we're just excited and very proud," Birkett says. "We're just very grateful that my father at 91 was able to go up there and receive this medal especially since he's been out of the military so long."
"Oh, I'm happy abou it,' his wife Bertha says. "I'm really happy he received this honor. He really deserves it."