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Honoring the Black veterans who served our country
February 01, 2024
As we recognize Black History Month, it’s important to remember the millions of African Americans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces throughout our nation’s history, says Brian L. Love, director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and a Marine Corps veteran.
African Americans have fought in every war fought by or within the United States. The U.S. Army History Office estimates 5,000 Blacks served in the American Revolution—as infantrymen, artillerymen, laborers and even musicians.
During World War II, more than 1 million African American men and women served in every branch of the Armed Forces, according to the National WWII Museum. In addition to battling the forces of fascism abroad, they also battled racism at home. The Army, Navy and Marines segregated Blacks into separate units because of the belief that they were not as capable as white service members.
When the Marine Corps began recruiting a contingent of Black Marines in June 1942, men from across the country flocked to enlist and train at Montford Point, North Carolina. Although the “Montford Point Marines” excelled at gunnery and drill, they faced the same segregation and hostility as men and women in the other branches.
One of the Montford Point Marines who fought in WWII was Deolis Allen Sr. of Detroit (pictured below). Allen was the uncle of MVAA Director Love.
“The Montford Point Marines went through a lot of hardships to earn the title of United States Marine,” Love says. “They endured those hardships at home and then went overseas and faced the hardships of combat.”
Director Love, who served as a Marine Corps infantryman from 1986-90, comes from a long line of Marines. In addition to his Uncle Deolis serving in WWII, he had an uncle serve in Korea and his father, stepfather and another uncle all served in Vietnam. In addition, an uncle and two cousins have served in the post-Vietnam era, including one cousin who fought in the Gulf War. They were all Marines.
Today, an estimated 53,000 Black veterans from all service branches call Michigan home, which is just over 10% of the total veteran population.
“For Black History Month, and all throughout the year, we honor the rich and distinguished military history of African Americans,” says Director Love (pictured below, in the Marine Corps). “From the Revolutionary War to World War II, and from Vietnam to Korea to Iraq, African Americans have served their country proudly, honorably and with distinction.”
Watch Director Love’s Black History Month message on the MVAA’s YouTube channel.