- Special Sections
- Public Notices
I have been humbled many times in the presence of service men and women.
There’s nothing like knowing the person standing in front of you has committed to risk his or her life to protect your life, your freedom, and everything else we, as Americans, hold dear.
I love hearing stories about people approaching service men and women in airports, simply to say “thank-you.”
Just last weekend, my brother flew from Phoenix to Wilmington to visit for a week, and spoke to an Army private while waiting for his plane. He told me that while the two spoke, several people approached the young man, smiled and said “thank-you.”
The young man was on leave after serving in Germany before heading to Iraq for a 10-month tour.
At a President’s Day ceremony Monday morning at the courthouse, the building was packed with people waiting in line to tell a retired Marine “thank-you.”
Master Sgt. Al Banker, who now resides in Bolivia, is a Louisiana native and one of the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Banker is among an elite group of Marines known as the Montfort Point Marines.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, which prohibited government contractors from “engaging in employment discrimination based on race, color or national origin.”
Banker joined in 1942, and he was taken to Montfort Point, near Jacksonville.
While African Americans were permitted in the armed forces after 1941, they were still segregated from the white servicemen, and they trained at Montfort Point, rather than San Diego or Parris Island with white Marines.
Banker served his country proudly for 24 years—22 of those years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Banker and the other Montfort Point Marines fought the Germans, the Japanese and the Koreans during times of war, but they also fought discrimination and segregation on a daily basis.
Banker and his fellow Marines trained to protect and serve their country, but still had to ride in the back of the bus when they traveled for weekend liberty.
To serve and protect one’s country is the ultimate sacrifice.
But to serve one’s country when you are not even entitled to its basic rights and freedoms for which you are fighting is epic.
All service men and women are heroes.
Master Sgt. Banker and the 20,000 or so African– American Marines who trained at Montfort Point and fought for this country are true legends.
May they never be forgotten.
Caroline Curran is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.