World War II veteran posthumously receives Congressional Gold Medal in Raleigh

Sunday, September 2, 2018
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World War II veteran posthumously receives Congressional Gold Medal in Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The pews were filled Sunday at First Baptist Church, as Corporal James Putney, a WWII veteran who died in late 2013, was posthumously honored with one of the highest awards in the military: The Montford Point Marine Congressional Gold Medal.

Putney was honored at this church specifically since he once served there as a deacon.

Corporal Putney joined the Marines in 1944 in not only a time of war but in a time of segregation.

"In '42-'49, the Black was in the military, but they were on the backside of Camp Lejeune," said Pink Scales, the Vice President of the Montford Point Marines Triad-Triangle Chapter 38. "In 1949, that's when the black marines started training with the white marines."

Born in November of 1923, Putney's commitment to his country blazed a trail for future marines, like his great-grandson, Keith Chen, who accepted the Medal on behalf of his great-grandfather.

"He opened the pathway for Black Americans like myself to join the Marine Corp," Chen said.

In just two short days, Chen will follow in his great-grandfather's footsteps as a Marine.

Chen said that his great-grandfather rarely talked about his time in the military and was quiet, but when he did speak, he spoke words of wisdom

"I remember, he would tell me a lot of times to hang around people who were only going to benefit you and not bring you down," Chen said. "He said that a lot."

The award has been given to members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Buffalo Soldiers, and the Montford Point Marines.