U.S. Marine retired Gunnery Sgt. Glenn J. White was drafted into the military but his service wasn’t wanted solely because of his skin color.
So he was separated from the rest of ‘ recruits at Montford Point, a segregated boot camp.
On Sunday, his years of service were recognized with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at McCutcheon Memorial Chapel aboard Air Station New River during services. Those in attendance, including his daughter, Gina Francis, and other current and retired members of the , spoke highly of White, who served 27 years in the and more than 40 years as an usher at the McCutcheon Chapel. Above all, they described him as a humble servant.
When The Daily News asked Francis how her father would react if he was able to attend the ceremony, her smile was immediate and genuine.
“Dad was a very humble, unassuming man,” she said. “He would be appreciative, but wouldn’t want a fuss made over him.”
Others spoke of not only his heart of service, but they also talked about his dedication to “Corps and Country.”
“He joined the Corps that did not want him and he stayed in order to make a career,” said Forest Spencer, president of the National Montford Point Marines Association. “He was forged by his family, by his loved ones, by his need to provide to them the basic necessities.”
White was drafted into the and swore in on July 30, 1945. Afterward, he reported to Montford Point, a segregated boot camp designated for African Americans during World War II. The boot camp location trained 20,000 African American men in the years 1942-49.
During White’s years of service, he served in Saipan, Tinian, and Guam overseas. He was stationed at Fort Memphis, Korea, Quantico, Camp Lejeune, Okinawa, New River Air Station and Vietnam.
U.S. Marine Ret. Maj. Gen. Cornell Wilson emphasized the importance of recognizing Montford Point Marines for their service and sacrifices.
“They fought against two enemies, one against Japanese … also against the racism that persisted at the time,” he said. “It’s really important to remember their legacy, because if we forget the past, we’re doomed to repeat it again in the future.”
The plaque with the image of White was unveiled with the help of Francis, White’s sister, U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey, and others. It immediately drew emotions from White’s family, as they spoke lovingly of him, with tears flowing freely and voices thick with emotion.
To Bailey, the plaque unveiling was significant not only to Montford Point Marines but to the as a whole and America as well.
“(The plaque) should be there as long as this building is standing because it’s the legacy of not only the , but the legacy, history, and tradition of America,” he said.
Bailey met White when they attended a national convention for the Montford Point Marines. He described White as a “servant leader,” as he spoke of his years of service to the and then his dedication as an usher at his church.
U.S. Marine Ret. Col. Grover Lewis III knew White on a personal level and his voice broke as he remembered his friend.
“It was important to him to show me some respect because he hadn’t seen a black colonel,” he said. “It just shows the character of who he was and how he presented himself as a servant to others. He did so as a service to this country, to the Corps, and to the community and the church.”
But more than anything, White’s brothers-in-arms realized everything it took for White to enter an organization that didn’t want him.
“This is an individual who understood the dedication, who understood courage, honor, and commitment at a time when he came into the . There were people who didn’t readily accept him, didn’t think that he rated those rights that we live by, so for him to one be a tremendous role model and later become a mentor to many of us with great pride,” Bailey said. “I wear this uniform with pride of the sacrifice and dedication he gave to this country.”
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