Going for the Gold

Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been working with the Montford Point Marine Association “to draft language calling for the Congressional Gold Medal to be awarded to them,” according to her letter to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, dated Oct. 16, 2007. The Montford Point Marine Association confirmed this effort in its October/November newsletter. The Montford Point Marines are those black men who were segregated from their white counterparts and went through boot camp separately at Montford Point at Camp Lejeune, N.C., from 1942-49.

The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress’s “highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.” Though it was originally a military award and its first recipient was George Washington in 1776, the scope of the award has broadened to include in the arts, public service, and science.

The award would place the Montford Point Marines in distinguished company, reemphasizing their place in history. (The Tuskegee Airmen and Navajo Code Talkers are past recipients.) While these efforts in support of the Montford Point Marines are admirable, are they appropriate? Rep. Brown’s comments in the Congressional Record (Feb. 17, 2005) noted Montford Point-trained Marines proved as capable as any other Marine and helped bring an end to racial segregation in the Armed Forces. Important and true, but are groups that have sacrificed in the face of adversity while serving the greater good the intended recipients of this medal? Should Congress then award medals to women from a certain era because of oppression they might have experienced that later ensured expanded opportunities for future female generations? Play the female card and one easily can guess the response.

Men and women of honor know their sacrifices and contributions have paved the way for others. They need no medal to underscore this or to right any past wrongs.

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