The Montford Point Marine Association will open a memorial to recognize the 20,000 African-American Marines who trained at Montford Point July 29 at 9 a.m. at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

Montford Point Marines were the first African-Americans to serve in the Marine Corps. A separate training facility was created for African-American recruits at Montford Point Camp near Camp Lejeune, due to the segregation laws of the 1940s prohibiting mixed heritage training. The association will present the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest award a civilian may get, by Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley, commanding general, Marine Corps Installation East – Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

"The memorial will tell a story through architecture, sculpture and words to educate and inspire visitors about the legacy of the Montford Point Marines," said Forest Spencer, National Montford Point Marine Association president. "The memorial comprises of three concentric circle patterns representing the ripples of influence caused by the Montford Point Marines that changed our nation, the U.S. Marine Corps and the American public."

The memorial will have a wall of 20,000 stars absent of names to symbolize that no completed roster of names has ever been located. A pillar is the collective recognition between all three circles for those Marines unending drive to overcome inequality. The right circle depicts an infliction point where Marines from Montford Point shifted from being primary support personnel to defenders. The artillery piece in the left circle represents the World War II weapons the Marines trained on. A respite space is provided in the third circle with slight privacy for reflection and interpersonal dialogue.

"Approximately 70 years ago, African American men had the courage to accept a challenge that would change the course of history," said Spencer. "Men who paved the way, men who came from all walks of life, men who had to fight for the right to fight. This is their legacy."