JOHNSTOWN - Nearly 70 years after Ambrose Anderson Jr. first set foot at Montford Point, a segregated training camp for black Marines during World War II, he is finally getting recognition from the nation he served.
Today, Anderson, 86, was boarding a plane bound for the nation's Capitol to attend the Congressional Gold Medal Award Ceremony for the Montford Point Marines.
According to the Montford Point Marine Association, Anderson is one of more than 400 living Montford Point Marines the organization has found.
Ambrose “Cowboy” Anderson holds a photo montage of photos taken of him and others during his service in World War II at his home in March.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
"Hopefully, I will find some of my comrades I haven't seen since the war," Anderson said, adding that he is the only attendee from the Capital Region.
Anderson now lives in the town of Johnstown.
He grew up in Gloversville near Washington Street and Thompson Avenue.
Anderson, along with the other Marines, will be awarded a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal at the ceremony, which starts at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
The event will be located in the appropriately named Emancipation Hall within the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, and it is expected to be broadcast on C-SPAN.
The U.S. Marine Corps is covering transportation and lodging expenses for each medal recipient as well as one guest.
It's possible President Barack Obama - who on Nov. 23, 2011, signed the bill awarding the medal - will attend the ceremony.
That information cannot be confirmed due to security precautions.
"We're going to be treated with the respect we deserve," said Anderson. "We were part of it, and the government is finally going to recognize us."
The trip also will include a reception Thursday at the 35th Commandant of the Marine's Corps' residence in Washington, D.C.
Known by his childhood nickname, "Cowboy," Anderson was one of 20,000 black Marines integrated into the U.S. Marine Corps after Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a presidential directive giving black Americans the opportunity to serve as Marines.
The black Marines who enlisted between 1942 and 1949 earned the nickname Montford Point Marines after being segregated from their white counterparts, who trained in Parris Island, S.C. Ambrose and his company trained with others at Montford Point, a training facility at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
In May, Anderson was treated to his first trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial on an Honor Flight.
The Honor Flight network is a nonprofit organization that arranges special trips for veterans to visit the monuments in Washington, D.C., dedicated to their service.
"That was really emotional," Anderson said. "I was so glad I got to go down there for a day and see the war memorial."
He even had his picture taken with former presidential candidate, U.S. senator and decorated World War II veteran Bob Dole.
Anderson this year has been profiled in local media, and his story was told in the March-April edition of the national publication World War II magazine.
Until now, he has shied away from attention. But, he said he feels the story of Montford Point needs to be told.
If Hollywood ever comes knocking on Anderson's door with a Montford Point Marine film, he'll help.
"But I've got to have top dollar if I play a starring role," Anderson said with a hearty laugh.
News Editor Amanda Whistle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.