Marine’s story inspires us to tear down barriers in our lives
Long before Samuel Wade arrived in Chillicothe, long before he was president of the local NAACP chapter and long before he helped to integrate the Marines, he learned to work with others and stand up for what he believed in.
Wade, along with several hundred others, was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal a few weeks ago. He was so honored because he was one of the Montford Point Marines, the first black Marines at Camp Lejeune.
If you haven’t read his tale, chronicled Wednesday by the Gazette’s David Berman, go back and find it. The story, photos and video are stirring.
But the joy of Wade’s story doesn’t come with the awarding of the nation’s highest civilian honors — although that is a great story in itself.
Wade’s ability to keep pushing and fighting for what he believes are elements essential to the American tale, which occupies a portion of every great story in our nation’s history.
Growing up in rural Kentucky as part of a big family, Wade had a no-frills life and graduated high school before enrolling in college.
When Uncle Sam came calling a month into his collegiate career, Wade put things on hold and joined the Marines. Despite being forced to ride in a segregated rail car and herded onto a wagon to make the trip to his military base, Wade’s service never wavered and he served his time with honor.
After discharge, he went to work as a teacher, graduating from college using the G.I. Bill. He married and settled down, using a G.I. loan to build a home for his family.
Upon arriving in Chillicothe, Wade’s work continued. First, with the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, where he helped better the lives of fellow veterans through education, then through work with the local NAACP to broaden the horizons for people of color throughout the county.
In all those instances, Wade worked to make a better community — not just a race, creed or color. As he fought to help others, they moved on and did the same. His daughter became a teacher and passed on what she learned from her father.
Understandably, Wade holds some mixed feelings toward the Marine Corps as a whole. He was segregated because of the color of his skin, which no doubt leaves memories you can’t forget.
But, even then, Wade views the situation as an opportunity lost for the military, saying, “The Marine Corps lost a lot by not really utilizing those of us who could’ve made officers or generals,” he said. “They didn’t take advantage of what they had.”
Ultimately, what Wade’s story teaches us is that barriers are only in your way until you start working to bring them down. The work to do so can be tough and take a long time, but the courage to fight those battles and the lessons they teach us — and those around us — build a better future for everyone.
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