Black Veterans To Be Celebrated With Congressional Gold Medal

11/11/2011 01:21 pm ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012

Congress will honor the nation's first group of black marines with the Congressional Gold Medal, America's highest civilian honor, for their service and for facing sometimes hostile environments both on the battlefield and in the military itself.

The resolution to honor them, which was initiated by Rep. Corrine Brown, passed the House on Oct. 25 without a dissenting vote and passed the Senate on Nov. 9 by unanimous consent, according to legislation track records.

The medal is not only an honor but also serves as a means for the men to take their place in history.

"It's always bothered me--every year for Black History Month, they talk about the Tuskegee Airmen," black marine Robert Hassler told Detroit Free Press. "Nobody knows about the Montford Point Marines."

Hassler was part of the roughly 19,000 other black men who trained at Montford Point, North Carolina from 1942-1949, separate from the rest of the marines. The training facility was established a year after Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the armed forces to accept African Americans. Although blacks were accepted into the ranks, training facilities remained segregated. Black marines trained at Montford Point, adjacent to their white counterparts who trained at Camp Lejeune. Although Harry S. Truman ended military segregation in 1948, closing the Montford camp a year later, the Marine Corps resisted integration until 1951.

Despite the bitter racism and demeaning treatment, the Montford Point marines remained dedicated.

"They thought black Marines wouldn't measure up," Calvin Moore told Detroit Free Press. "So we decided to do what we could to be Marines."

Brown said she was excited to see the legislation pass just in time for the Marines celebration of its 235 anniversary on Nov. 10.

"I am thrilled to see this piece of legislation finally come to fruition," the Seattle Medium reported. "H.R. 2447 is an extremely important measure that honors the first black Marines with long overdue deserved recognition."

According to, the recipients will receive their medals on Nov. 16.

Some black Civil War soldiers have a chance of garnering posthumous recognition as well. The Oklahoma Honey Springs Battlefield, a battle where black soldiers helped earn a major victory for the Union army, may become a new addition to the National Park Service.

The First Kansas Colored Volunteers, a unit composed of escaped slaves, was a primary force in the fight and was the first black regiment to see combat. The news of the victory spread nationwide, dispelling rumors that black Civil War soldiers wouldn't see combat.

According to a report by The U.S. Department of the Interior, there is "potential support" for the resolution to make the site a national battlefield park. If so, it will mark another victory for black soldiers both deceased and alive.