Freeman Stokes of Banning, Montford Point Marine, to Receive Congressional Gold Medal

Freeman Stokes, left front row, at Montford Point, Jacksonville, N.C., 1943. Photo credit Freeman family.
Freeman Stokes, left front row, at Montford Point, Jacksonville, N.C., 1943. Photo credit Freeman family.
Freeman Stokes was born June 1, 1924, in Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia, where he grew up subject to Jim Crow laws that mandated racial segregation, enforced discrimination and racism, and denied he and other blacks their basic civil rights.

Twenty years later Stokes was among the first African American U.S. Marines trained at Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Stokes served in World War II in the Pacific, in the Korean War in the 1950s, and with Marine Reserves at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms before he moved to Banning in 1960, he told Banning-Beaumont Patch in an interview Friday at his home on East Indian School Lane.

"This is my home 50 years, me and my family," Stokes said. "It's changed some, more people here now. But this is home. We like Banning."

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday Jan. 25, Stokes, now 90 years old, will be honored for his service in the Montford Point Marines in a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony at Banning City Hall.

Montford Point recruits from 1942 to 1949 trained and served separate from white Marines. About 20,000 black Marines were trained at Montford Point and
about 13,000 served overseas during World War II, according to the Montford Point Marine Association.

"Montford Point Marines often are honored as important figures and role models in American history because they willingly fought to protect a nation that did not offer them basic civil rights," author Coral Anika Theill wrote in an article for Leatherneck, Magazine of the Marines, in 2011.

Here's more from the article:

The battle that took place from 1939 to 1945 for world freedom has been referred to as America’s war. But while American troops fought the horror of World War II, the Montford Point Marines fought a second battle - one for equal treatment.

Like the Army, Air Force and Navy, today’s Marine Corps is fully integrated, but for generations the Marines did not admit African-Americans. The racial integration of the American military was a lengthy process that started in 1941. The Marine Corps today contains many successful African-American members and leaders, who trace their lineage to the group known as the "Montford Pointers."

Congress has commissioned gold medals since the American Revolution as its "highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions," according to a House of Representatives history.

The Montford Point Marines were first recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal on Nov. 11, 2011.                               

For a full list of the nation's Congressional Gold Medal honorees see http://history.house.gov/Institution/Gold-Medal/Gold-Medal-Recipients.

Congressman Raul Ruiz is expected to make the gold medal presentation Saturday to Stokes at City Hall, 99 E. Ramsey St., according to Ruiz' staff and Banning Mayor Debbie Franklin.
Jeremiah January 24, 2014 at 09:25 PM
I wonder if this story could have been presented to honor Freeman Stokes without the editor having to play the race card to make it controversial and get more hits and readers. That is plain out using him for a story and as a former soldier that really pisses me off. The man deserves a better article than this. Thank you, Freeman Stokes, for your service and for being a true American and putting your life on the line for all of us! **** Jeremiah
beaumontdave January 24, 2014 at 10:58 PM
God bless them all.
beaumontdave January 24, 2014 at 11:08 PM
the race issues were part of it then so I'm okay with it being part of the story. Hopefully we're past most of it now, but it has to play out with the older stories. Thank you Mr. Stokes for your service, I hope life has treated you better since.
Carol Stull January 25, 2014 at 02:45 AM
So now we're going to pick out a certain group of individuals based on their race and honor them for their military service? How about a white soldiers memorial for those that died on Normandy beach - think that would fly? This BS has gotten way out of hand.
Libi Uremovic January 25, 2014 at 07:37 AM
'...How about a white soldiers memorial for those that died on Normandy beach think that would fly?...' it 'flew' a long time ago....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normandy_American_Cemetery_and_Memorial lessons learned to white people: if you don't want your embarrassing treatment of your fellow man written down in history - don't do it...
Libi Uremovic January 25, 2014 at 07:45 AM
my kid did a paper on gays in the military - she was shocked to find out that gays have always served in the military and it wasn't an issue until racism against blacks became unfashionable and illegal, so the fixation turned to gays..... ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ the question is: why do humans repeatedly make up a reason to persecute their fellow man...??
Jeremiah January 25, 2014 at 08:38 AM
Well, you guys managed to throw your sickness in and ruin the intent of the article. It just has to be about you and what you believe, doesn't it? What's the matter you can't let this man be honored as a man for his service and leave race completely out of it? You think sob stories about race and repression make him more or less of a hero on his own right? He earned that medal as a man - and you'll notice I didn't say white or black man. That's giving him the honor he truly deserves. You lessen him by tying it to race, including the author who wrote the story. You guys make me want to puke. Stop using him for a political sounding board. Your sickness is showing **** Jeremiah
rubberband January 25, 2014 at 01:07 PM
Marine Freeman Stokes...Sir, thank you for your service and sacrifice. Enjoy the rest of your years knowing that some are very grateful for you. Semper fi.
Rick Carmichael January 26, 2014 at 12:12 AM
Mr. Stokes you are a hero, stand tall and proud. As a former Marine I would gladly have stood shoulder to shoulder with you and all of our marine brothers. I was raised to recognize a man who did his job not his color. Mr.Stokes it is an honor and privilege to serve our country and you did it with HONOR. and CLASS. To anybody who throws their racial shit and crappy opinions outthere to takeaway from anybody who finally getting his time of recogition for service willingly given to our great country needs to get off there damb soapbox - tired off all of the wanna be politically coreect assholes who wine and cry about shit but do nothing to fix abd correct the problems. ONCE A MARINE ALAWAYS A MARINE. when the wolves are howling at your door send a Marine - your problems are solved - all politicians ( bad ones) xan hold hands and cry like babies. SEMPER FI snd OOH RAH
shawn January 26, 2014 at 12:07 PM


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