Pay homage! This past Saturday, the first-ever African-American Marines were honored in a special ceremony held in Burlington, North Carolina.

Per WFMY News, the ceremony was to honor the 75th anniversary of “Montford Point Marine Day,” which was the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially allowed African-Americans to serve in the Marine Corps. From 1942 to 1949, over 20,000 African-Americans underwent basic training at Montford Point.

A few of the original Montford Point Marines attended the event, including Mack Haynes, John Thompson, Cleo Florence and Robert Thomas. During the ceremony, three families were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal.

“They had to fight to be recognized as part of the human race,” said retired Marine Fred Codes, senior vice president of the Atlanta Chapter of the Montford Point Marine Association, via The Times News. “…The Marine Corps didn’t necessarily want them at the time, but they wanted to fight for their country. When the executive order was signed, they came in droves.” There are still about 300 Montford Point veterans alive in the United States and according to Codes, the oldest living vet is 97 years old.

“We stand on the shoulders of these great men and their families and the community that raised them,” said secretary of the state Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, Larry Hall. “And it is important for the new leaders to let future leaders stand on their shoulders as well.”

Congrats to these vets who are forever cemented in American history!