July 11, 2012
From left: Nevada Senator Harry Reid meets with Montford Point Marines who now reside in Las Vegas, Mr. Leon Moten and Mr. Irvin Odom.
Washington, D.C.- Nevada Senator Harry Reid met with Mr. Leon Moten and Mr. Irvin Odom, two of the three known surviving Montford Point Marines who now reside in Las Vegas. Mr. Odom and Mr. Moten joined other surviving Montford Point Marines from across the United States at a ceremony in the United States Capitol Building to receive Congressional Medals of Honor.
“I congratulate Mr. Odom, Mr. Moten and every man who trained at Montford Point on receiving the highest civilian honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor,” said Reid. “The Montford Point Marines were forced to ride at the back of the troop train, eat at separate lunch counters and use different bathrooms. They were trained to fight injustice overseas. Meanwhile, they suffered discrimination every day. Neither Mr. Odom or Mr. Moten joined the Marines intending to be trailblazers or heroes, but they certainly are.”
At the directive of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1942, African Americans were given the opportunity to serve in the United States Marine Corps. However, at that time, new African American recruits were segregated at the onset of their basic training. Montfort Point, located at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina became the training site for the first African American Marines, while other recruits trained elsewhere on Parris Island, South Carolina or in San Diego, California. The recruits at Montford Point paved the way for future generations of African-American Marines.
About Irvin Odom
Irvin Odom joined the U.S. Marine Corps in March 1943, serving for 3 1/2 years and attaining the rank of Corporal. For most of his enlistment, he served in the Pacific area of operations, fighting on the island of Okinawa. Almost 70 years after Corporal Odom graduated from basic training at Montford Point, his grandson retired with 21 years of service in the Marines.
About Leon Moten
Leon Moten was drafted into the military in March of 1943 and attained the rank of Private First Class. He was one of the first African Americans accepted for Marine Corps basic training at Montford Point, North Carolina.