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Friday, May 31, 2013

At the Airport

 I cannot forget the intelligent man I met at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport last year. We were returning from the Montford Point Marine Congressional Medal of Award Ceremony. He stated that he was a professor at a college in Iowa. We had a discussion and he was quite emotional after witnessing the delegation of elderly veterans. The professor was fighting back tears because his father had just died, and he said his Dad was a Marine during World War II. His dad had always stressed boot camp training at Camp LeJeune and never mentioned the name of Montford Point. With further discussion and our help, he discovered that his father was probably a Montford Point Marine as well, since his father was African American. Like me, he probably heard stories growing up, and stored them away. We then parted, and ended with, "If your father was a Montford Point Marine, perhaps he could receive recognition posthumously." The handsome professor reflected a bit and then boarded his plane deep in thought.

Futhermore, I have to emphasize that the professor's story was what he shared with us, complete strangers. The only way for him to verify his father's military status was through archives, which are available on various sites such as An individual cannot falsely claim to be a member of the armed services and/or misrepresent their rank, or acts of herorism.

I had taken his business card to remain in contact, but unfortunately lost my wallet. (Long story that I don't want to get into at this juncture). I am quite sure the professor did some research and probably uncovered  information on Montford Point Marines in tribute to his late father.

 Because of the tragic events of September 11th, airport security has been significantly redefined. TSA (Transportation Security Administration) Agents are the first in line in insuring the safety of American aviation travel, and are mandated to take threats to safety very seriously. Over five thousand lives were lost in the largest attack on American soil since World War II. (The first being Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941). Passengers are patted down, and screening checkpoints sometimes have long lines as passengers empty their pockets, and instructed to remove shoes. Carry on luggage is x-rayed. Recently, my hair that was pulled up in a bun `was checked for foreign objects as if I was a character in a Blaxploitation* flick...yet no other females in my vicinity had their hair examined.


 The delegation of older, and noticeably disabled African-American men, who just received the nation's highest honor, were treated, well, less than honorable. Some of the men walked with canes, and a few like my dad were in wheelchairs. I narrowed my eyes at one TSA agent in particular. She angrily addressed the elderly honorees, who still had their medals around their necks (complete with red, white and blue ribbons) and their best suits, as if they were common street thugs. I watched with horror as the same coarse woman barked at the men. Luckily, a respectful and knowledgeable supervisor and another official came by and oversaw the checkpoint procedures, restoring dignity to the procession. As for the TSA checkpoint agent, she was whisked away before an incident took place. Her attitude definitely needed to be "checked".

We met an airline attendant who was a history major at Howard University and never heard of the Montford Point Marines. She gathered some information from us and vowed to do so research. It is an on-going educational process. Throughout the airport people were stopping and asking questions upon spotting my dad's medal. Many people of various ages, all walks of life, stopped and shook dad's hand, and thanked my father for his service to the country. Others shared stories of their own son, father, or grandfather in the military and were generally upbeat. On our plane back home to Bradley International Airport, Hartford/Springfield, the flight attendants made a special announcement for my dad and we were given preferential seating. Fellow passengers cheered and congratulated my dad, who was grinning ear to ear.

Almost a year later and Dad never leaves his house without a Montford Point Marine Hat or USMC Hat, attracting comments and words of encouragement, with some "special" treatment or expedited service thrown in for good measure.

Further Information:
.remembering 9/11

*Blaxploitation: a genre of American film of the 1970s featuring African American actors in lead roles and often having antiestablishment plots, frequently criticized for stereotypical characterization and glorification of violence. Blend of Black + Exploitation ( From Examples include: Shaft, Foxxy Brown, Cleopatra Jones. Quintessential actress Pam Grier hid weapons in her hair in two of the genre's films.

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