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EDITORIAL: Saving Montford Point Marines chapter hall is a worthy endeavor

Sharon Stokes-Parry (from left), Frank Thrasher, James Reynolds and Paul Knox

Sharon Stokes-Parry (far left), Frank Thrasher, James Reynolds and Paul Knox at the Montford Point Marines veteran center in Englewood. | Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

It’s an uphill battle, no doubt, for the African-American veterans who are trying mightily to save their South Side meeting place.

The clock is ticking for the Chicago chapter of the Montford Point Marine Association, though not as fast as days ago. The real estate firm that bought the association’s tax debt on its Englewood chapter hall has given the group an extension until May 31 — rather than the initial Feb. 1 — to raise $75,000 to redeem the debt. 

If the Montford Point Marines fail, they will lose a building that’s been a gathering place and community resource for 35 years.


And if the vets succeed — and it’s a long shot — they still will face another big battle: raising yet more money to pay for long-deferred repairs on the crumbling building. 

Success for the vets depends on a struggling $200,000 GoFundMe campaign, which has raised just $17,838 since it was launched in mid-November 2018. “The donations are not coming in. We don’t have the sphere of influence we once had,” Sharon Stokes-Parry, the chapter’s president, told the Sun-Times last week.

There’s more to this story than sentiment. It’s about saving history.

The Montford Point Marine Association was formed to honor the first African-Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps, during World War II, when the entire military was segregated. Four of the “Original 400,” as those first black Marines were called, are active in the Chicago chapter, which is open to veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces.

In 2011, President Obama awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to every member of the Montford Point Marines, living and deceased.

America pays special attention to its veterans twice a year, with parades and speeches in their honor. 

A more substantial way to honor them, especially those who fought for America when America wouldn’t fight for them, is to keep their story alive.

Contributing to the GoFundMe campaign (at www.gofundme.com/raise-the-roof-housing-fund) is one way to do just that.

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