Marine Corps Base Quantico --
He was among the “ordinary men who faced extraordinary
challenges to earn the title of U.S. Marine.”
Family members say Cpl. Julius B. Foxx Jr. never made
much fuss about his years of military service before passing away in 2001. But
a grateful nation took the time to recognize the tremendous sacrifice and steadfast
dedication of one of the original Montford Point Marines with Friday’s
posthumous presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to his family.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was among the roughly 100
family members, guests and Marines gathered at the National Museum of the
Marine Corps and presented the nation’s highest civilian award to Foxx’s two
daughters and extended family.
In addition, the family received an official proclamation
from the White House honoring Foxx, who served from 1943 to 1946.
“This really means a lot,” Sheila Foxx, of
Fredericksburg, said of honors bestowed upon her late father. “I didn’t know
how important it really was. To know about it makes me want to go and find out
more. I’m very proud of my father.”
Warner, whose father also served in the Marines during
World War II, lauded Foxx and the other Montford Point Marines for their
perseverance and willingness to still serve an imperfect country that had not
done right by them.
“The Montford Point Marines overcame institutional racism
to prove that the willingness to sacrifice for your country is what makes
America great,” Warner said.
The Montford Point Marines became the first
African-Americans to serve in the Marine Corps starting in 1942. The military
was still segregated at the time, so they were not allowed to attend basic
training with their white counterparts at either Marine Corps Recruit Depots at
Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California. They instead undertook
boot camp at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
More than 20,000 Marines endured tough conditions while
serving at Montford Point between 1942 and the camp’s deactivation in 1949. In
addition to having to prove their worth as Marines, they endured often hostile
conditions in the Jim Crow South. Despite the adversity, many of the Montford
Point Marines went on to serve with distinction in World War II during some of
the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Theater.
Their service and deep love of country have been credited
for advancing the cause of civil rights and influencing President Harry
Truman’s decision to integrate the military in 1948.
In 2012, Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal as
a unit to the original Montford Point Marines.
Dr. James Averhart Jr. the national president of the
Montford Point Marine Association, hailed Foxx and the other Montford Point
Marines as “trailblazers who dared to want to be a Marine.”
“They had to fight for the right to fight,” he said.