Steve Stout, email@example.com, 815-431-4082
Anita Kopko, an Ottawa attorney who has been battling an inoperable brain tumor, fulfilled a long-time dream Tuesday by meeting several members of the original Montford Point Marines in her home on the South Side.
The retired Marines, all from Chicago, were accompanied to the luncheon gathering by Montford Point Marine Association Chicago Chapter 2 President Sharon Stokes-Parry.
“I was thrilled and honored to meet these Marines who helped to erase discrimination in our Armed Forces and who provided great service to the country,” said Kopko.
The Montford Point Marine Association is a charitable nonprofit veterans organization established in 1996 to perpetuate the legacy of the first African Americans who entered the U.S. Marine Corps from 1942 to 1949 at Montford Point Camp in New River, N.C.
According to Internet sources, about 20,000 African-American recruits received training at Montford Point Camp during World War II. The initial intent of the Marine Corps hierarchy was to discharge these African-American Marines after the war, returning them to civilian life, leaving the Marine Corps an all-white organization.
Attitudes changed and reality of their valuable service took hold as the war progressed. Once given the chance to prove themselves, it became impossible to deny the fact this new breed of Marine was just as capable as all other Marines regardless of race, color, creed or national origin.
Kopko became interested in the Montford Point Marines and became a Quantico Chapter 32 Auxiliary Associate member through years of friendship with Cladie Fisher and her daughter, Dr. Cladie R. Spears, who was once the NMPMA Auxiliary president.
Spears was among those who worked with legislators on Capitol Hill in recent years to confer the Congressional Gold Medal on the combined legacy of the Montford Point Marines who served from World War II to the Vietnam War era.
Tuesday, the Marines gave Kopko a decorated Montford Point Marine memorial coin and each thanked her for years of support to their national organization.
The association is now raising funds to build a memorial to the Montford Marines and their legacy.