Lawton, Oklahoma -
February is National Black History month, and the City of Lawton joined the celebration by honoring a marine who fought for this country during one of its darkest times.
Lawton Mayor Fred Fitch signed a proclamation during the ceremony declaring February Black Heritage month but it's the legacy of one of this country's first African-American marines that is shining bright.
Johnny Phillips, whose father Private First Class Rudolph Phillips was an original member of the Montford Point Marines and fought in World War II, was honored.
PFC Phillips was one of about 20,000 African-American who were among America's first black marines.
On Monday, Phillips' family accepted the Congressional Gold medal on their father's behalf.
"They fought for freedom anyway. They were proud of what they did. My father always said he was a proud marine. Dad lived the dream," Johnny says.
In addition, he says, "It was a hard fought battle for my dad. He talked about it quite a bit. Sometimes he was sour about it but in the end, he always said, 'Embrace those that hate you and love them' and that's what we always did."
For those in attendance, including Major General Mark McDonald, it is a special moment to recognize an individual who did so much for this country.
"We're just absolutely proud of him, proud of what their father stood for and proud of the diversity he fought through, the obstacles he fought through to help our country forward," MG McDonald says.
Also, MG McDonald says the Montford Point Marines' courage to join the military during a time of war, and the discrimination and segregation he dealt with, helped pave the way for millions.
MG McDonald says, "When it came time to fight, nobody cared who was on their left and right so for that short period of time, they were completely inculcated in the marine corps."
The Congressional Gold medal is one recognition Phillips' family is extremely proud of.
They say it's fitting for a true American hero like their father.
Johnny says it has been a sixteen month process to get his father recognized with this prestigious award and they're more than happy that it finally happened.
To learn more about the Montford Point Marines, click here.
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