MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Raul Ruiz, Congressman, California’s 36th District, presented the Congressional Gold Medal to retired Montford Point Marine Joseph Beaver at the Tolerance Education Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Feb. 24, 2014.
Beaver, now 91 years old, served in the Marine Corps from 1943-1946 and was one of the first African-Americans to join the Marine Corps and attend training at Montford Point, which is now known as Camp Johnson in N.C.
Upon completion of his service, Beaver dedicated his life to the civil rights battle, founding the Black Historical and Cultural Society of the Coachella Valley. He also took part in the march on Washington on August, 28, 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
“Their struggles, their perseverance, led this country into a time of remembrance,” said Michael Johnson, veteran, Montford Point Marine Association. “I stand here today fully aware that I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for people like Joseph Beaver.”
In attendance to the ceremony were various family members and friends of Beaver, as well as the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center color guard and Marines with 4th Tank Battalion who took part in presenting the medal alongside Ruiz.
“Serving our veterans has been one of the greatest joys I have had in my time in office,” said Ruiz. “Our freedom endures because our veterans fought to protect it. It is my great honor to award this medal to Joseph Beaver, and may he and all of our veterans be remembered.”
In 2011, President Barack Obama signed legislation that honored the Montford Point Marines with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor awarded to a civilian by Congress.
“This honor is beyond words, I never thought I would be the recipient of anything like this in front of my congressman and so many friends and family,” said Beave