Community members gather to celebrate 100th birthday for former Montford Point Marine

The Montford Point Marines was the first group of African American Marines which were allowed to enlist in 1942.

By6abc Digital Staff via WTVD logo
Sunday, April 24, 2022
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An extraordinary milestone celebration took place Saturday at the American Legion Post 21.

PHILADELPHIA -- It was an extraordinary milestone celebration for one of the first Black U.S. Marines at the American Legion Post 21 in Philadelphia.

Former Commander of Post 21, Albert Willis, celebrated his 100th birthday on Sunday with all of his friends and family.

People came from all over to pay their respects and to snap a photo with Willis. The welcome party included a drum line which Willis joyfully paid salutes to for their performance.

The 100-year-old veteran was overwhelmed by all the love and support from his friends.

"Nobody is promised everything, so thank God for 100," said Willis.

Amongst the crowd of friends were a few Montford Point Marines, a group that Willis also belongs to.

The Montford Point Marines was the first group of African American Marines who were allowed to enlist in 1942.

About 20,000 African American men trained at a segregated recruit training facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina, named Montford Point from 1942 to 1949.

In 2012, they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the U.S. Congress.

"For years, he's always inspired us with his stories about the wars and things like that," said Willis' son Robert Percell.

Willis received multiple honors, including a citation from the City of Philadelphia and awards from Post 21.

Willis finished his thank-you speech by saying, "I'll be with you, I'll be with you all the way, and thank you very much."

The Montford Point Marine Association is currently looking for members or family members of Montford Point Marines to give them their gold medals.

If you believe you have a connection, please reach out to 6abc's Race and Culture Unit.