SAN ANTONIO- A man who served as a Marine nearly seven decades ago is finally receiving recognition for his service. Veteran Marine Calvin T. Curtis is a member of a very special group of Marines called Montford Point Marines. They are the first African American Marines ever and who were drafted during World War II. Montford Point Marines are now being honored either through individual ceremonies or group ceremonies across the country with a Congressional Gold Medal.
Retired Marine Sergeant Major Mike Benjamin attended the Tuesday morning ceremony at Fort Sam Houston to see his friend Mr. Curtis receive one of the highest civilian awards presented to someone who has performed an achievement that has made an impact on American history.
He said, “When I went into the Marine Corp in 1950, persons like Curtis made it easy for guys like me who were men of color to recognize that we could be good marines”.
In 1943 when Curtis was 17-years old he was drafted. He served two years as a marine and was stationed back then in the territory of Hawaii.
But, Curtis' son explains his father, along with other African American Marines were not treated as equals to their marine counterparts.
“The level of segregation and discrimination that we have heard about from Tuskegee Airmen or other people in the military was probably a level higher in the Marine Corp because of their traditions,” explained Dr. Todd Curtis.
In fact back then the African American Marines were called Montford Point Marines named after the camp in North Carolina where the segregated group was trained.
These Marines helped pave the way for integration in the armed services.
Mr. Curtis plans to display his Congressional Gold Medal in his family room where he can proudly show it off to his family and friends.