By Corky Mau
Semper Fi At 98
Marines made him proud, tough and successful
Observing Veteran’s Day has special meaning for Pocket resident Richard Davis. He served in the Montford Point Marines, the Corps’ original all-Black unit that trained in a segregated boot camp in Jacksonville, North Carolina, during World War II.
Now 98, Davis will watch special television programs and wear his Sam Browne belt. Daughter Jackie will make peach cobbler or homemade pound cake with strawberries and vanilla ice cream. Retired from a career in education, Davis shared with me his experiences serving in the historic Montford unit.
It was 1942 and he just graduated from Compton High School. Older brother Romeo joined the Army. Davis, then 17, was eager to serve in what he calls the “toughest outfit going.” By November, he was traveling by train and bus to North Carolina.
“I grew up in the Watts neighborhood. I experienced racism at home, but I never experienced segregation until I left for boot camp,” Davis says.
He adds, “I entered into a different world. Seeing ‘Colored only’ signs directing us to a different area of the train station was shocking. I thought about trying the different drinking fountains to see if the water tasted different. I didn’t.
“When we got to Washington, D.C., we boarded a bus headed for Camp Lejeune. We made a stop in Cherry Point, Virginia, to get food. The restaurant wouldn’t serve us until Red Cross workers spoke up on our behalf.”
Between 1942 and 1949, more than 20,000 men were trained at Montford Point. Recruits were housed in prefab huts. They had to build their own camp.
“The sand and mosquitoes were awful,” Davis says. “They toughened us up. Failure was not an option. We were all determined to prove that we could be equal to or better soldiers than our white counterparts.”
Jacksonville was a hostile environment. The Montford Marines were confined to a couple of streets. After boot camp, he was assigned to the Fleet Marine Force and started his tour in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater.
For two years, he managed the ammunition supply. He traveled to Guam, Okinawa, Palau and finished service in Honolulu.
Davis was discharged in 1946 and used the GI Bill to attend Pepperdine College, earning degrees in education. His first classroom experience was in Compton. Over a 40-year career, he counseled students and was an education consultant.
Davis and his wife Dolores, also a retired educator, recently celebrated their 75th anniversary. Daughters Marilyn, Jackie and Sandy are proud of their father’s achievements.
In 2012, Davis, along with 1,500 fellow Marines, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, in recognition of his service. The medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress. His medal is encased in a glass display and sits in his living room, where Davis sees it every day.
He fought bigotry at home and in the military. In spite of obstacles, he encourages young people to sign up. “The military experience didn’t break me. It taught me discipline, something I’ve applied in both my professional and personal life,” he says.
Meals on Wheels by ACC invites the community to share holiday magic with homebound seniors. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 8, cash donations or items like new blankets, mittens, hats, socks and scarves will be collected for the annual Project Warm Wishes.
Last year, the community donated more than 8,000 items. All 1,300 program participants received a holiday gift bag. Cavallini & Co., Paratransit, Cafe Elk Grove and Sacramento Classic Thunderbird Club, among others, made generous donations. Countless individual donors helped make the 2022 campaign a success.
A wish list is being prepared for the 2023 campaign. Drop donations at the Meals on Wheels office at 7375 Park City Drive. For information, call (916) 444-9533.
In celebration of the seasonal migration of sandhill cranes to the Delta wetlands, the 25th Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival will be held at Lodi’s Hutchins Street Square Nov. 4–5. The event is free. Visit lodisandhillcrane.org to register for guided wildlife tours.
Corky Mau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.