By THOMAS BRENNAN
The Daily News of Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ Seventy years ago, Norman Preston never thought the Marine Corps would embrace African-Americans as they do today.
Preston, now 92, was among the Marines segregated from their white counterparts during their training and service at Montford Point, which is now known as Camp Johnson. As one of the first black Marines to join the Corps during World War II, Preston represents one of the few Montford Point Marines still alive. Alongside two other Montford Pointers, Preston watched as 2nd Supply Battalion unveiled its newly designed logo, which includes the words “Legacy of Montford Point” in gold across a red banner along the bottom of the logo.
The banner sits below the Marine Corps eagle, globe and anchor emblem and is wrapped with the unit’s designation of 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. Atop the emblem rests a banner with the words “semper sustinare,” or always sustainable. Beneath the logo is a four-pointed compass in black and white. For Preston, every time he is able to be involved in a Marine Corps ceremony, he enjoys seeing the different races together without prejudice, something that wasn’t so during the 1940s, he said. As the new logo was unveiled at Goettge Field House aboard Camp Lejeune, he believed his service will not be forgotten for as long as the logo exists.
“Seeing this new logo is unbelievable based on the background we have and what we went through,” Preston said. “I never thought I would see a day like this. It was unthinkable back then because of the environment. It’s unthinkable that things have come this far.”
He hopes the logo inspires modern Marines to push through adversity, he said, adding that seeing the current generation succeed regardless of skin color makes him grateful he served many years ago.
A fellow-Montford Point Marine, F.M. Hooper, 85, of Wilmington, said he hopes the new logo serves as a symbol for today’s Marines to never let equality go to the wayside. It also means the legacy of the Montford Point Marines will carry on well after all they have passed.
“The Commandant of the Marine Corps has told us Montford Pointers that we will never be forgotten so I am sure that we will forever and always be a part of Marine Corps history and American history,” he said.
Today, when he speaks to younger Marines, they seem pleased to hear his story.
“It means a lot to me to have served in the United States military, but more especially to have served in the United States Marine Corps,” he said. “I am very proud to be a Marine and I want modern Marines to remember to keep marching no matter what, to always remember what Semper Fidelis means and to never forget our history. Montford Point Marines love their Corps just like every other Marine, so we will never, ever forget what we want them to remember.”
Lance Cpl. Darresha Gray, 20, of Las Vegas said the Montford Point Marines knew that joining the Marine Corps would be a difficult challenge but they accomplished the mission and for that, she said, she will always be inspired by them.
Today’s Marines should remember the Montford Point Marines, because Marines today are not white or black Marines, they are just Marines, Gray said.
“For 2nd Supply Battalion to implement the Montford Point Marines into our logo embraces their legacy as logisticians many years ago,” Gray said. “I just want to thank them for having the courage then to do what they did. I’m proud of them and thankful they did it, they gave me the opportunity for me to be an accepted Marine with countless opportunities.”
As the battalion commander of 2nd Supply Battalion, Lt. Col. Jesse Kemp, 41, of Camp Lejeune said that the Montford Point Marines represent something more than just the first black men seving in the Marine Corps, they are an inspiration.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to instill pride in the Marines and sailors of this unit than to incorporate the legacy of the Montford Point Marines,” Kemp said. “This will be part of this command’s legacy forever; and it says that we are proud of everything Marines have done, past, present and future.”