Many people know of the Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers, but until now, the same Congressional Gold Medals and recognition awarded to those American war heroes have escaped the Montford Point Marines.
As of Friday more than 300 of the surviving African American soldiers from WWII, from a band of 20,000 who trained at the segregated Montford Point, North Carolina camp, have been recognized with the nation's highest civilian award.
'If I do anything today, I want to assure you that you are not a foot-note in history and today isn't just a single day,' Lieutenant General John Paxton Jr told the honourees in Chesapeake, Virginia, according to WAVY.
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Honourees: On Friday four of the surviving 300 Montford Point Marines, seated top left, were awarded with Congressional Gold Medial
Heroes: The men are members of a band of originally 20,000 Marines who trained at the segregated Montford Point, North Carolina camp during WWII
Including all: The award ceremony follows behind one in Washington, D.C. in June that honoured the other survivors with the medals
Friday's ceremony specifically honoured four veterans who were unable to attend a previous ceremony in Washington, D.C. last June.
'You are indeed the United States Marine Corps. You're part of us, we're part of you,' Paxton, the Commander of the United States Marine Corps Forces said while presenting the medals.
Addressing their significance in history, Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart explained to the audience: 'These men had to fight for the right to fight.'
In 1942, at the peak of World War II, the U.S. Marine Corps was still an all-white military branch.
With a demand of soldiers and the war only picking up speed, the Marine Corps opened up to men of all colours, welcoming the approximately 20,000 black men through 1942-1949, but still segregating them to their own training camp.
Master Gunnery Sergeant Jimmy Hargrove, who received his medal on Friday, said that when he was sent to Montford Point, he never knew that all the white men were off training at Parris Island in South Carolina.
Firsts: The men, pictured, were the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marines, trained in North Carolina while white soldiers were placed at Parris Island in South Carolina
All men: The men recount some of the white soldiers treating them differently in the beginning, but many saying their view points on race changed
'I did not know and the ones that I did see never told me that Montford Point was a segregated boot camp,' Mr Hargrove told WTKR.
The men said that as their service continued, it became clear of their racial divide, no matter the similar uniforms they wore.
'Whole lot of our NCOs were white men, whole lot were southerners, who believed in segregation,' Mr Hargrove said. 'They tried to make it hard for us. They were hoping we would fail.'
But they didn't.
Fight: The men proved they were just as capable as the other soldiers previously a part of an all-white military branch until 1942
'We were just as capable of being marines as everybody and in a lot of cases better and I've always told that no man, I don't care black, white or blue was better than I was,' Robert Kindred said.
Mr Kindred said that as time progressed, so did their divides, however.
'White boy came to me and thanked me. The one thing I'll always remember is he told me when I go back home I've got to tell my mother and my father that they lied to me,' Mr Kindred said.
'They always told me how black people were so different from me. I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for you and some others.'
Recognition: Nathaniel Harris, seen after his decoration, thanked the marines who recognized them though saying it was something definitely needed a long time ago
The Congressional Medal has been selectively given since 1776, when George Washington was awarded the first.
It is the highest civilian award in the country, awarded to people who perform an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity and national interest of the country.
'They were great marines but they were also pioneers,' Paxton told WTKR following the ceremony. 'They were pioneers in America where the circumstances were much different.'
The timing of the ceremony, however, still left some with heavy hearts.
Reflection: Robert Kindred, seen following his own decoration, reflected on the thousands of other men who missed their recognition due to the length of time it took
'It should have been done, I'd say, 70 years ago,' Mr Kindred told WAVY. 'There's so many men who would have deserved this recognition, [they] are passed and gone.'
'Thank you for coming and spending your time to show us some type of recognition,' Nathaniel Harris who was one of the four said following his medal's acceptance. '[It] was something that was definitely needed a long time ago.'
'This is a American history and the world needs to know about the Montford Point Marines,' Mr Hargrove said.
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