At the dedication of a memorial Friday honoring the first black U.S. Marines, John Spencer imagines his mind will recall what it was like to become a Montford Point Marine.

“I’ll think about the trials and tribulations we went through to prove that we were good Americans and that we loved our country and were willing to fight for it,” said the 88-year-old Spencer, who served 20 years in the Marines and 10 years in the reserves.

Spencer is one of 45 Montford Point Marines who plan to attend the dedication of the national Montford Point Marine memorial at Lejeune Memorial Gardens at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The $1.1 million memorial includes an anti-aircraft gun and a bronze statue of a Montford Point Marine.

About 20,000 men trained at the segregated Montford Point camp from 1942 to 1949 following President Franklin Roosevelt’s executive order that led to the desegregation of the Marine Corps, the last branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to admit blacks. In 1948, President Truman signed an executive order that officially ended segregation in the military.

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