Joseph Alexander trained to enlist with the Marines at Montford Point, along with many other African-Americans, paving the path to a desegregated military.
Joseph Alexander, a 94-year-old World War II veteran has been awarded the highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, for his services to the country. He served in the army during a time when segregation was a norm in the military. Alexander was honored alongside some of the other African Americans who paved the way for people of color to join the Marines.
East Bay Marine veteran to receive Congressional Gold Medal before 95th birthday https://t.co/tUcIEujCMC— Mercury News (@mercnews) July 27, 2019
ABC7 reports that the award ceremony took place at the Veterans Memorial Building in Hayward, California, where a group of retired United States Marines gathered to honor Alexander, who chose to serve in the army during a period of time where his own country limited him from serving as a proud American.
My dad was in the #Army during #WWII, in the Pacific. I never met Joseph Alexander of Hayward until today. #Proud. He served as a #Marine in that war. Today he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal given to African Americans who trained at a segregated-Camp Montford Point. pic.twitter.com/jXMG19OXjb— Lyanne Melendez (@LyanneMelendez) August 2, 2019
Alexander's time as a Montford Point Marine was accidentally discovered when his family was working with the Department of Veterans Affairs. He joined the Corps in 1943, at the tender age of 19. This was following then-President Franklin Roosevelt's signing of the 1941 executive order prohibiting any kind of racial or ethnic discrimination in federal agencies that were working in defense. This cornered the military into allowing for the recruitment of African Americans.
Sometimes you run across a story that touches your heart and reminds you of both the injustice of a time in our history while also giving us hope. https://t.co/REA0dwHDm4— selene (@scubapinkgirl) August 9, 2019
In 1942, Montford Point opened its doors and recruited African Americans to train with the Marines. White Marines, on the other hand, were trained separately at Parris Island, San Diego, and South Carolina. Alexander would go on to fight for his country in the Pacific theater in World War II. The distinguished veteran rarely speaks about his service in the military, as reported by the East Bay Times.
Thank you for you're service Sir!— LindsayleeVonBliss (@LVonBliss) July 27, 2019
The military was eventually desegregated in 1948 by President Harry Truman, and in 2011, then-President Barack Obama signed a legislative order to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines. But out of nearly 20,00 African American Marines who went through rigorous training and served their country, only 2,000 have been identified and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.