Black History Month: In the Presence of Greatness


Retired Gunnery Sergeant J.T. Inge, left, and Retired First Sergeant Joe Earl Jackson proudly display their Congressional Gold Medals awarded in 2012 for their service as Montford Point Marines.

One of the things I love most about my job, is being able to meet ordinary people who have achieved extraordinary feats. For, what they have achieved–sometimes despite hardships and the need to overcome great barriers–is awe inspiring and can serve as a lesson to us all.

Take the Montford Point Marines. In December, I had the good fortune to sit down with three of the original Montford Point Marines. They are a little known part of American history, the first black men to be called to duty by the Marines, beginning in 1942. They answered the call, bravely, selflessly and faithfully, but were met with racism, discrimination and harsh conditions, every step of the way. They fought hard for the right to fight. They fought, too, for the right to receive a promotion and to serve side-by-side with their fellow white Marines.

Retired Gunnery Sergeant, Dr. Carrel Reavis, with his Congressional Gold Medal.

Retired Gunnery Sergeant, Dr. Carrel Reavis, with his Congressional Gold Medal.

While I listened to them tell their stories, I felt something monumental happening and the words that kept going through my head were “living history,” which is when I realized I was standing in the presence of greatness.

Wanting to do their story justice, I wrote it as best I could, pouring my heart into it. For these men deserve so much more than that. They deserve our eternal gratitude.

The men of Montford Point are heroes and I’m thrilled to share Part I of their story with you today, as posted on my Hey Neighbor blog. Part Two will also post this week.

In honor of Black History Month, I hope you’ll read it, for their story is astounding and one that needs to be shared. Everyone should know about the brave African Americans who fought, despite everything, simply for love of their country.  I’m including an excerpt here, but to read it all, please visit my Hey Neighbor blog.

Thank you so much!


True heroism. You can see it in their hands, brown and weathered. Their long fingers, slightly bent from the weight of the load they’ve had to carry. It’s in their faces too, which exemplify a quiet dignity, and in their eyes, which glisten like gems from beneath the Pacific. An homage perhaps, to their time in Hawaii, Saipan, Guam and Okinawa. The crevices that line their faces and their somber, knowing smiles reveal a measure of the life they’ve lived.

They are three African-American gentlemen. One a bachelor, one a widower and one married now for 56 years. Grandchildren of slaves, born and raised in the South, they’ve been at the forefront of history, breaking barriers and standing up for what is right, amidst racism, discrimination and segregation. And they achieved this by serving in the U.S. Marine Corps…

Please visit my Hey Neighbor blog to read the entire story.

17 thoughts on “Black History Month: In the Presence of Greatness

  1. When I first read this post, Monica, I had to sit and think. Think about who paved the way,how they suffered and why we are here today. I didn’t write my reply immediately because these words – “Blacks were considered to have strong backs and weak minds.” “We couldn’t think.” ” We needed to be told everything that needed to be done”- pierced me the most. Those words captured every antagonistic sentiment out there towards minorities. So incredibly powerful.
    I watched ‘The Butler’ recently, and felt the same way. Some friends found it slow, boring even, but I liked it. I like the background. I liked the beginning. I felt the same way when I watched Roots ages ago.
    You did a phenomenal job!

    • Thank you so much for reading, MM! I’m so glad to hear you were moved by the Montford Point Marines’ story, as was I when I first heard it. I too saw The Butler and LOVED it. I found it to be a very powerful, uplifting film. We need to face our past and teach our children, so that we can learn from it and so that it doesn’t happen again.

  2. A beautiful tribute. it must have been such an honor to sit with these men. I’m with you that we need to keep working for justice for all. So cool that you have a second blog. I forgot about that one!

    • Thanks, Jodi. After I started this blog, and my boss saw that I knew a thing or two about writing, I was asked to start Hey Neighbor. I don’t post there as often, but I so enjoy getting the chance to interview some very interesting people. 🙂

  3. Pingback: ‘We Were Expendable’ | Monica's Tangled Web

  4. This is well-written and researched, Monica, and should be required reading. By the way, have you tried to get it published in other places besides online??

    You know, it’s sad when people aren’t judged for their character and their deeds, instead of externals (like skin or eye color) that they have no control over. Perhaps, instead of focusing on the wrongs that have taken place in the “ignorant past,” we should firmly resolve not to perpetuate such deeds but to step forward and bravely treat one another as God’s family, with love.

    • Debbie, I wrote it for my work website, so it’s not mine to publish elsewhere, but thanks for asking and thank you for recognizing how much research and effort it took to write. These men personify what heroism is all about. 🙂

  5. When you look back through history, there are countless examples where one race or creed is looked down on by another and treated badly. But of course it’s easy to look back and regret at whats happened in the past, but we need to look ahead and stop such things happening in the future. What’s that quote in the book 1984? Ah yes it’s “All people are equal but some are more equal than others.” Everything after the first four words should be ignored, because they are the only ones that matter.

    A great post Monica and I look forward to part two.

    • Inequity hurts all of us. I wish it could be different. Trouble is, as long as there are people who believe in it, they will continue to pass on their prejudices to their children and their children’s children. But those of us who see that it’s wrong need to keep fighting for justice and understanding for all. I will continue to do so through my words. Thanks for your input, Robert.

Comments are closed.