Tuesday, March 5, 2013
The first event in the Living Legacy Series, organized by the University of West Georgia’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, was a celebration of the exploits and legacy of heroes and forerunners. The event, which honored Congressional Gold Medal winner and retired Montford Point Marine, James Pack, was organized to mark Black History Month.
The first speaker at the event was Fred Codes, retired U.S. Marine and the president of the Montford Point Marines Association Atlanta Chapter 5. He introduced the legacy of the Montford Point Marines. These Marines were the first African-Americans to join the USMC, and they trained at Camp Montford Point in North Carolina. The audience watched a video that informed them that the Montford Point Marines were the first African-American Marines to see active combat during World War II.
After Codes’ presentation, Deidre Rouse, acting director of CDI, introduced Pack. Pack joined the Marine Corps in 1943 during World War II. He participated in battle campaigns in Saipan, Mariana Islands, and Okinawa, Japan. Pack grew teary as he recounted the camaraderie he experienced with his fellow Marines during an era when African-Americans faced overt discrimination. “Color did not matter,” he said. “On the battlefield, we were all brothers, and we fought to protect our brothers.”
Rouse and Codes conferred the inaugural Living Legacy Award on Pack, who thanked the CDI and dedicated the award to his late wife. A question-and-answer session followed the award ceremony. Pack answered questions from audience members on different topics ranging from life in the Marine Corps to life in general.
Afterward, Codes took the stage to inform the audience about various scholarship opportunities offered by the MPMA. His final piece of advice was to live life like “every day is a holiday and every meal is a feast.” The event concluded with closing remarks, and Doris Railey Kieh of the CDI office thanked the guests. It was a night of celebrating old legacies and creating new ones.
Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned the Congressional Gold Medal as the highest expression of national gratitude for distinguished achievements and contributions. The Congressional Gold Medal was approved for the Montford Point Marines on Nov. 11, 2011. According to the MPMA website, the Montford Point Marine Association is a nonprofit Veteran organization established to perpetuate the legacy of the first African Americans who entered the United States Marine Corps from 1942 to 1949 at Montford Point Camp, New River, N.C.
Photo 1: Fred Codes
Photo 2: James Pack and Family