Montford Point Marines Visit Bensalem High School

Montford Point Marines
Bensalem High School students with two Montford Point Marine veterans. Master Gunnery Sergeant Joe Geeter stands behind them. Photo by Rick Rickman.

Students at Bensalem High School had the privilege of meeting original Montford Point Marines Friday. 

These men were the first African Americans to join a segregated branch of the United States Marine Corps in the midst of World War II.

A Montford Point Marine uniform. Photo by Rick Rickman.

1,200 African American recruits arrived at basic training in Jacksonville, North Carolina in 1943. On top of boot camp, they found a disheveled plot of land. They had to clear trees and make it their own.

In their struggle, they paved the way for other minorities to join. Before the camp’s deactivation, 20,000 African American marines had trained at Montford Point.

Then in 1965, veterans decided to form the Montford Point Marine Association.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Joe Geeter III is a former National President for the non-profit. His uncle served as a Montford Point Marine, which inspired him to join the USMC as well.

“I look back and see what they had to endure,” Geeter said. “And I think about what they had to go through and I look at the challenges I was facing, they sure made those challenges a lot easier to do.”

Photo by Rick Rickman.

Now retired, Geeter goes around voluntarily to teach the history of Montford Point. He hopes the younger generation will take interest as well.

“Maybe somebody in this room, and I know it’s a pretty diverse room, may have known some of these Montford Pointers, who have not been recognized yet. That’s what I do, I go around and I talk and I hope, ‘Hey my grandfather is one of them, what do I need to do to get that medal?’”

Retired Colonel John Church Jr. leads the JROTC program at Bensalem High School. These ‘Montford Pointers’ fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. And Church says they also fought their own battles at home after the war.

“What you read in history, is these guys won the war, they helped win the war, and then they helped win the peace, because many of these men were a part of the civil rights movement.”