It has been a long journey for the Montford Point Marine Memorial, but the vision to honor the first group of African American Marines became a reality last week.
As hundreds gathered for the memorial’s dedication last Friday in North Carolina, it was a Yazoo City native who kept the project going for close to a decade.
Houston T. Shinal, the son of the late J.T. and Martha Shinal, grew up on Sixth Street in Yazoo City. He was a 1970 graduate of Yazoo City High School. He dedicated his life to the U.S. Marine Corps.
And he helped continue the direction for a memorial paying homage to the men who paved the path for his own military career.
Shinal has served as the National Monument Director for the Montford Point Marine Association since July of 2009.
“It's going to be a great opportunity to be a part of the history of this camp, this town, and this memorial,” Shinal said, in a previous interview.
Last week’s dedication service attracted hundred of visitors , including about 45 of the orignal Montford Point Marines from around the country.
Shinal has spent much time working with the Marines for them to be present at the historic dedication.
“They get excited,” he said. “I get on the phone with them as we’ve been making plans for them to come here, and they are excited. You would think it was their first Christmas.”
The first African American U.S. Marines were trained at the segregated Camp Montford Point, in Jacksonville, North Carolina, from 1942 to 1949.
Between 1942 and 1949, more than 20,000 men were trained at Montford Point. In 1949 Montford Point was deactivated after President Harry S. Truman signed an Executive Order that required the desegregation of the military. New black recruits were sent to Parris Island and Camp Pendleton. It was during the Korean War that the Marine Corps fully integrated.
The Montford Point Memorial Association was then established as a non-profit veterans group. The organization helps preserve the legacy of the first group of African Americans who entered the Marine Corps at Montford Point.
Houston retired from the Marines as Chief Warrant Officer Five in 2003 after 30 years of service to his country.
Prior to his retirement, Shinal joined the MPMA, Camp Lejeune Chapter #10, in 1991. He held the offices of Treasurer, Financial Secretary and Chapter President.
Shinal has been behind the Montford Point Memorial as its director for the past seven years.
The memorial includes a restored 90-mm M1A1 anti-aircraft gun, a 15-foot bronze statue of a Montford Point Marine and a “Wall of Stars” that represents all of the Marines who trained at the segregated Montford Point boot camp during the 1940s.