Contributions of Montford Point Marines celebrated at Cherry Point

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Sgt. Maj. Christopher Robinson, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing sergeant major, left, shakes hands with original Montford Point Marine Master Sgt. Johnnie Thompkins, center, and his wife, Ernell Thompkins at the Cherry Point base theater on Friday. Robinson spoke at a special program honoring the legacy of the Montford Point Marines.

Drew C. Wilson/Havelock News
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 04:45 PM.

Retired Marine Master Sgt. Johnnie Thompkins remembers when he decided he wanted to join the Marine Corps as a young man growing up in Winston-Salem.

“I was shining shoes on the street corner,” said Thompkins, who now lives in New Bern.

A group of Marines came up and he heard them talking about the Corps.

“These guys were all about it. I said ‘this is for me.’ I said ‘I wanted to join the Marine Corps because they were the baddest people out there,’” Thompkins said.

So he joined and found out just how bad they were.

“Those boys are too tough,” he said. “I don’t know how long I’m going to stay here, and they said ‘you’ve signed the papers. You’re going to stay here forever.’”

Thompkins, 85, an original member of the Montford Point Marines, attended a special ceremony honoring the first African-Americans to join the Marine Corps Friday at Cherry Point. The Montford Point Marine Association sponsored the event, which was held at the base theater.



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