LEXINGTON, N.C. — L.M. Lockhart didn't like to talk about his years as an ammunition supply man in Guam. Between December 1943 and May 1946, his more macabre duties in the Pacific required him to retrieve the bodies of his fellow soldiers.
"He would say, 'I've seen blood run down the hills like water.' But nothing more than that." said Rona Lockhart, L.M.'s oldest daughter. His dry wit, she said, limited her and her younger sister Sherraine's knowledge of the horrors he witnessed overseas. At home, his grace, discipline and experiences of war shaped how he raised his children and treated others.
"He grew up in the back woods of Georgia in the early 30's and 40's, fought in the war as an African-American marine, facing discrimination the whole way," Sherainne said, "it showed us how our problems were never all that difficult by comparison. We may not like what's happening to us, but it's all about how we respond. [L.M.] exemplified that."
As a member of the Montford Point Marines, stationed near Jacksonville, N.C., Lockhart was one of the first 20,000 African-American's integrated into the United States Marine Corps. The last branch of the U.S. Military to integrate, Lockhart could not escape racism, even when half a world away from American shores.
"He would say there were two fights during the day. One against the enemy, and one to get back to bed." Sherraine said.
The taunting, harsher treatment from white officers and segregation did not hamper his love of country, even when it did not love him back.
"He returned to the U.S., and he was treated like any other African-American," said Rona, "which at that time, was bad. To this day, [their family] were the only ones to honor or recognize him with any type of award. Us and the community, that is."
In 2012, then-President Barack Obama awarded the Montford Point Marines the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the highest honor bestowed on civilians, tied with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Lockhart did not live to see the award. He passed away in 2008.
He had never received any official individual recognition for his service. His granddaughter, Kassaundra, aimed to change that. After working with local military organizations in Lexington, she got her wish.
On the eve of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, the mainland Allied-invasion of Europe during World War II, a small group of family and friends gathered at a military hang-out spot in Lexington. Lockhart. used to spend time in the spacious main hall with his Marine buddies back in the day. Wednesday, June 5, 2019, L.M.Lockhart got his due. L.M. Lockhart received his own recognition in the form of a shiny Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.
"I only wish he could be here to see this," said Rona, "he was so proud to serve his country. There was no resentment in his heart."