CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicagoan John Vanoy is part of a distinguished group of men known as the Montford Point Marines, who broke barriers in the United States Marine Corps.
"I was drafted but I didn't volunteer," Vanoy said.
He was one of about 20,000 Black men who trained at Camp Montford Point from 1942 until 1949, the year the camp was decommissioned.
The all-Black, North Carolina-based unit was established in 1942 following an executive order by President Franklin Roosevelt prohibiting racial discrimination in the defense industry and in government.
"I went in 1943 and I was overseas in April of 1944," he said.
For Vanoy, making history wasn't top of mind.
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"At first, I thought maybe I am in here, I am just going to make the best of it. That's all I could do," he said.
Decades later, Vanoy and other Montford Point Marines were awarded Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
"It was quite an honor," he said.
"He is part of history, something to be proud of," Vanoy's granddaughter Catrice Armstrong said.
A ceremony was held last year at the Montford Point Marine Memorial to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first Black Marines, but Vanoy didn't attend.
Armstrong wishes the story of the Montford Point Marines was more well-known.
"It's really important, especially for our culture because we are not taught that in school. We don't hear about that. We heard about the Tuskegee Airmen. We have seen films, but we don't hear about Montford Point," she said.