94-Year-Old World War II Veteran Honored With Highest Civilian Award

94-Year-Old World War II Veteran Honored With Highest Civilian Award

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. 


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. 


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. 


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


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. 

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