Jack McDowell never considered his actions to be monumental.
But more than 70 years later, plans for the building of a monument commemorating the Montford Point Marines is underway and McDowell, a former Montford Point Marine, is looking forward to the chance of telling his story.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing to see happen,” McDowell said. “Hopefully it will happen before we all expire. As all Montford Point Marines are, we’re all in our 80s and 90s.”
Plans for the $1.7 million project began about four years ago, according to Houston Shinal, director of the monument. Shinal said the project, which aims to help tell the history of Montford Point, will take a little over a year to complete once construction begins.
“Phase 1 is expected to cost $642,000,” Shinal said. “Our goal is to raise $60,000 in order to break ground this year.”
Shinal said the organization is required by the Department of Defense to have at least that amount available before they can break ground at the site, which is on DoD property at Lejeune Memorial Gardens. According to Shinal, fundraising efforts are still ongoing.
“We just wrapped up a national shoe drive,” he said. “As for other fundraisers, we have the Montford Point Marine Day where there is a charity golf tournament planned and a charity motorcycle (run) planned.”
The proposed memorial will be comprised of three sections. According to an informational video on Mpmamemorial.com, a sculpture of a Montford Point Marine will rest in the east ring of the memorial, with the west ring housing the World War II 90mm M1A1 anti-aircraft gun and a south ring decorated with flowering trees and benches.
The memorial will also feature donor bricks and a “Path of Heroes,” where names of individuals who fought for civil rights and the nation will be laid in “custom marble bricks with bronze inlay,” according to the video.
“It’s a big monument,” McDowell said. “Hopefully people who frequent the area will see it and wonder what it is and educate themselves.”
The Montford Point Marines were the first black Marines. They trained at Montford Point, which has since been renamed Camp Johnson in honor Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson, one of the first black Marines to enlist.
“To me it’s a representation of the military civil rights movement,” McDowell said. “When the monument gets erected and people look at it, hopefully they will understand the history behind it.”
McDowell hopes the monument will serve the local military community well.
“Hopefully it will continue to educate young Marines about a chapter in the history of the Marine Corps that was forgotten for many years,” he said.
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