BY JAMES HARPER
Eli Graham was drafted into the Marines in 1944. During that time, Black and White soldiers were segregated.
Graham was 18 years old at the time. Even though he is now 87, he vividly remembers bombs exploding while he was serving in the South Pacific Islands.
And he still suffers repercussions from his time of service. He says he has trouble hearing and it wasn’t until last year that he was able to get the government to pay for him a set of hearing aids.
Graham was part of what was known as the Montford Marines.
It was a group of Blacks who broke the color barrier during World War II. He was among hundreds who are still living who received the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on June 27 this year.
The Montford Point Marines were the first Blacks to serve in the United States Marine Corps.
Graham, along with other local Montford Point Marines James Huger and John Steele will be recognized on Sunday, Nov. 11, at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church during a special service honoring all local veterans.
Greater Friendship, the Daytona Beach NAACP and the City of Daytona Beach will pay special tribute to Graham, Huger and Steele.
Other area residents who are surviving Montford Marines and received Congressional Gold Medals are James Sharpe of Palm Coast, Robert Blanks of Orange City and Wilfred Carr of Palm Coast.
All veterans are invited to the service to be recognized. Nov. 12 is Veterans Day.
Captain to speak
Tommie Robinson, president of Greater Friendship’s Brotherhood ministry, said the service will acknowledge the contribution of all who sacrificed their lives in military service.
All veterans are invited to attend the church beginning at 8 a.m. for an all-you-can-eat breakfast.
Then at 10:45 a.m., the Montford Marines will be singled out but all veterans will be acknowledged and praised for their service.
The Rev. C.L. Robinson, pastor at New St. James Missionary Baptist Church, will be the guest speaker.
Robinson, born in Tampa, enlisted in the Army in 1977 and has served in that capacity for the past 28 years. A captain, he has traveled extensively and has held a variety of jobs in the Army as an enlisted soldier and officer.
He is currently working at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Bethune-Cookman University, where he serves as professor of Military Science and a Liaison Officer in the Army ROTC department.