MACON, Ga. — The Montford Point Marines were the first African Americans to enlist in the U.S. Marines.
Megan Western introduces us to two men who talked about how these Marines paved the way.
"It started with them," says Staff Sergeant Loren James Thomas.
He says in 1941 President Roosevelt signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination in federal agencies.
"From August 26, 1942 until September 9, 1949, when Montford Point was decommissioned, over 20,000 African Americans were enlisted and processed through Montford Point," says Thomas.
The group created a legacy that Thomas' family carries.
"My father was in the Marine Corps, and I saw what type of shape it put him in and I wanted to follow suit," he adds.
Staff Sergeant Marcus Ross enlisted in the Marine Corps to serve in what he calls the hardest branch. A standard he says that stems from black drill sergeants taking charge at Montford Point in 1944.
"They had it harder with those guys than when they first joined. That was because they wanted to be the best," says Ross.
From the vigorous training, to the limitations on how they could serve, trying to be the best was a struggle.
"Coming in now I don't have to go through those things. I just have to go through the training, yes the training is hard, and yes it will benefit you in the end, but they set the pathways, they set the boundaries, and they set the legacy to live up to," he adds.
For Thomas, getting to meet the men who paved the way was a full circle moment.
"The pride that they had when they were looking at me in the uniform, it made me want to do my best and continue to do my best to continue to make them proud," he says.
Both men agree that the Montford Marines set the sights for how far they can go.
"Thank you for everything you've done for us, and the legacy you've left for us," says Ross.