Featured Story – medal of honor

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 9, 2012

Finally, a hero gets his due

By Rupert Howell

We can’t say for sure how he was treated in the U.S. Marine Corps 65 years ago, but last Friday he was treated like a “Rock Star” with friends, family, veterans and Marines all offering congratulations and wanting their picture made with him.

Former Marine Master Sergeant Elbert Lester, now 87,  was awarded his copy of the Montford Point Marines’ Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by congress for distinguished achievement.

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Not only did the Montford Point Marines have to deal with war against a foreign enemy, they also had to deal with Jim Crow laws of the time that separated them from other Marines.

While admitting he saw his share of death and destruction, his comment about his military service was to mirror President John F. Kennedy’s statement, “. . . ask not what your country can do for you—ask what can you for your country.”
When Lester was asked why he chose the Marines he replied, “They decided that for me.”

He then explained that while in the Army reception station, the black company was asked for volunteers to go to the Marines.

“Nobody volunteered, “ Lester said noting that each name was then put into a hat.

“I was one of the unlucky ones,” he stated.

Following training those Marines were put aboard a ship in Norfolk, VA to Guadalcanal, a 31-day voyage that would begin his time of service in the South Pacific.

Most of the 19,000 black Marines trained at Montford Point were assigned to ammunition and depot companies bringing ammunition and supplies to the front lines and returning wounded and dead to transport ships.

He was assigned to the 27th Depot Company as a corporal and would leave the service as master sergeant. Over 13,000 served overseas during that War.

Following the war he would return to his Quitman County home where he would marry his wife of almost 65 years, Pearline, and have 13 children, 11 of whom are still living.

He has lived on his 80 acre Quitman County farm where he still resides and has attended Woodland MB Church all his life where he and his wife still sing duets according to his niece Jacqueline Brown.

“It’s the most I’ve ever seen him talk,” Brown said while well-wishers surrounded her uncle and sought to have photographs made with him.

“I never anticipated any of this. May God bless you,” Lester told the crowd.