It was a ceremony some 71 years in the making.
The late Bishop Darvis Beene’s widow accepted the Congressional Gold Medal on his behalf.
It’s the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States Congress.
Beene, who died in 1993, was one of 20,000 African American marines who trained at Montford Point in North Carolina. These are Black heroes who broke the color barrier and enlisted in the US Marine Corps.
“Many of these marines served with distinction with a number of the World War II’s bloodiest struggles,” the event emcee said.
Longtime Senator Carl Levin presented the award. He noted that Beene served his country abroad, at a time when many African Americans were fighting for their own civil rights at home.
“You have to wonder what it is that would bring people to fight for a country that was not fighting for them in which they were not full citizens,” Levin said.
Beene’s daughter, Flora Beene Johnson, explained why he chose to turn the other cheek. “He was the epitome of love. He didn’t see color,” she said.
“They were being discriminated against and being segregated nonetheless put their lives on the line for us. That takes a real special loyalty to America,” Levin said.
Beene’s children didn’t know their father was a Montford Point marine until last year. That’s when they began to realize the significance of what he and his peers endured.
“I love him even more, and I miss him dearly,” Beene Johnson said.
“Probably the greatest man I know that represent Jesus Christ,” Jarvis Beene, a son of the late honoree said.
Louveria Beene said receiving this on honor on her late husband’s behalf “means a lot. [It’s] a blessing, a blessing for the Lord.”
The couple raised 13 children together. He would have been 87 years old today.