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Carroll Braxton of Manassas, Va., among first black Marines, to receive Congressional Gold Medal

5:37 PM, Jun 26, 2012   |    comments
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MANASSAS, Va. (WUSA) - They paved the way as the FIRST African American Marines, and they'll be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday.

One of the local recipients has a story of his own, and says the recognition is bittersweet. 

"We didn't want to quit. We were determined to make it... Other than death we were gonna make it," says Carroll Braxton.

Braxton is one of the first African American marines, also known as the Montford Point Marines.

The Manassas native was just 18 years old, fresh out of high school, when he decided to join, remembering as a little boy hoe he looked up to the marines from Quantico.

"They were big and built, so much different from the army," he says.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed African Americans to be recruited into the Marine Corps. These African Americans were not sent to the traditional boot camps of Parris Island in South Carolina and San Diego. Instead, they were segregated, and did their basic training at Montford Point in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

"They didn't want us," he says. "They didn't bite any bones. They let us know they didn't want us. They tried everything they could to encourage us to not finish boot camp."

Braxton was one of some 20,000 African American recruits who trained at Montford Point during World War II. He says it took the black and white marines several years before they were fully integrated.

Braxton, who turns 88 in July, worked his way up from a private to a Master Gunnery Sergeant. He earned the nickname "top" for being a tough combat drill instructor.
He served 28 years including, two and a half years in the Pacific during World War II.

"Water would be up to here in some places," he says. "You just wading in, no protection or whatsoever and they just slaughtered marines."

On Wednesday, he will be part of a group to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

It's an honor he gladly receives but still with some pain.

"Because I'm missing my buddies," he says. "I wish more of them could be here to accept this."

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