EAST POINT, GA. -- As 82-year old Robert Cleveland received the Congressional Medal of Honor, Colonel Doug Edwards whispered words of gratitude in his ear "Thank you sir for your service," the Colonel said.
After those soft spoken words, the room filled with thunderous applause. "If you don't think you're making history, and you make history, it makes it all that more satisfying," Robert Cleveland said.
Cleveland admits, he entered the marines because he needed the GI bill to help pay for college. But his decision, and that of nearly 20,000 other African Americans that served in the segregated unit at Montford Point in Camp Lejuene, North Carolina, paved the way for minorities to be seen as equals in the military. With all your efforts, your dedication, I salute you. Semper fi delis," a fellow Marine said.
Cleveland's sons say they had no idea of the significance of their father's service, until they learned of the award. "We knew he was in the marine corps but we did not know the circumstances that he was in the marine corps. Dad is very hesitant to blow his own trumpet. (I played saxophone)," father and son explained.
The unit was deactivated in 1949, after 7 years of segregation, but their willingness to fight the enemy in World War II, and for their civil rights back at home, has not been forgotten. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you. Okay. and that goes for all the African American officers out there who have climbed on your shoulders. Thank you so much," the Colonel said. "Glad I had shoulders!" Robert Cleveland said.