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For Montford Point Marine awarded Congressional medal, fish were good as gold

Richard Bostick served in the Civil Conservations Corps before joining the US Marine Corps and training at Montford Point in North Carolina. Later, he was a pastor at the United Church of Jesus Christ for All People and senior elder at Fishers of Men Pentecostal Church in Beaufort. Photos are courtesy of the Bostick family.
Richard Bostick served in the Civil Conservations Corps before joining the US Marine Corps and training at Montford Point in North Carolina. Later, he was a pastor at the United Church of Jesus Christ for All People and senior elder at Fishers of Men Pentecostal Church in Beaufort. Photos are courtesy of the Bostick family. wlivingston@islandpacket.com

The Marines would visit him on Saturdays and Sundays after they got out of the river.

They’d bring him fish.

It might be a couple of enlisted Marines, or an officer with kids in tow, hauling a boat behind a truck and parking near his home at 1912 Duke St. in Beaufort. Duke Street was practically an all-black neighborhood in the late 1950s and 1960s. When a shirtless, white captain stood in the road and hollered, “Hey, Dick!” — for Richard Bostick, the recipient of the fresh catch — it turned heads.

“That looked kind of odd,” Richard Bostick Jr. said Tuesday afternoon. He sat in the dining room of father’s home on Duke Street and recalled how he and his siblings used to watch from the porch.

“People — blacks — up and down the street, they’d be looking, (wondering) ‘What’s going on down there?’” he said. “They didn’t say anything, of course.”

“There were certain boundaries whites and blacks did not cross,” his sister, Indy Bostick, said as she glanced at him across the table. “But to (the white Marines), it did not matter, because they’d met him and they were — ”

“ — affected by him,” her brother said, “over there at Parris Island.”

Richard Bostick worked at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for more than three decades as a civilian in the motor transport division. By the time he’d retired, he’d mentored dozens of young servicemen. He was a pastor and church elder, and a father who turned chores into adventures. But before all that, he was a Montford Point Marine.

And on June 17, the Beaufort native was honored with a Congressional Gold Medal for his service.

“(The Montford Point Marines) had to pretty much build their own boot camp, cut down the trees and deal with the bears and kill the snakes,” Tyrone Jackson said Wednesday during a phone interview.

Jackson, president of the Beaufort Chapter of the National Montford Point Marine Association, recalled stories he’d heard from black Marines who had trained at the Jacksonville, N.C.-based boot camp operated by the Marine Corps in the time of segregation. White drill instructors didn’t care if black trainees went AWOL, he said, and a black Marine, regardless of his rank, could never command white troops.

Roughly 20,000 men trained at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949, according to the association’s website. More than half of them went on to serve in World War II. In 2012, about 400 Montford Point Marines received the Congressional Gold Medal — the nation’s highest civilian award. The Marines were trailblazers for future servicemen such as Jackson, who retired as a master gunnery sergeant in the early 1990s after almost 30 years of service.

The Marine Corps rejected that history for years. ... The Corps just didn’t talk about it — they kept it quiet.

Tyrone Jackson, president of Beaufort chapter of the Montford Point Marine Association

But he was more than halfway through his career when he learned about Montford Point.

“The Corps just didn’t talk about it,” Jackson said. “They kept it quiet. We still, today, look for Montford Point Marines who did not get their Congressional Gold Medal.”

Bostick was one of them, he said.

Bostick enlisted in 1943 in Columbia and received his “USMC button” at “Montford Point Camp, Camp Lejune, North Carolina” on April 22, 1946, according to his discharge paperwork. He served in the army of occupation in Japan from September 1945 to January 1946. He left the Corps as a corporal making $66 a month.

He grew up poor and without a father, his children said, which is why he made sure they never wanted for anything. They may have been poor, but they never knew it, daughter Marcia Jordan said. She remembers her father coming home from work and all the kids would run up to him and hang from his arms. He was a short man — his discharge papers list him at just over 5 feet, 3 inches — but stout, and there’s a story about him saving a man named Moses from drowning.

After the war, he worked as a civilian on Parris Island for 32 years. He retired in January 1981.

During his time at the depot, young recruits would come through the motor transport division for work shifts, his son said. As a Marine himself, Bostick saw it as his duty to motivate the trainees. An active duty Marine at Parris Island took notice. On Sept. 1, 1977, that Marine awarded Bostick the rank of honorary sergeant major, and presented him with a certificate.

Richard Bostick Jr. held a copy of that certificate Tuesday as he told how white Marines used to visit his father on Duke Street.

“Unofficially, I think my daddy helped with the integration of the Marine Corps at Parris Island,” he said. “Because, I mean, his relationship with a lot of those white Marines was unusual. I mean, (he was) not just friends with them — some of them acted like he was their daddy.”

Bostick Jr. and his sisters — just three of the 10 Bostick kids — sat in the dining room of their father’s home, the one he helped his wife turn into a two-story residential care facility in the 1980s. He’d built the fireplace himself and constructed some of the additions to the home. A capable, strong man, his children remembered.

They were stunned when he got sick one spring day and died shortly thereafter, on April 3, 1997.

But before he died, he had visitors.

“For years after he retired, colonels, majors used to come by looking for him,” Jordan said. “And he’d say, ‘I raised that boy, there.’”

She thought back to the late 1950s and 1960s, when the white Marines would visit their home.

“It was a regular thing, and you wouldn’t expect them to drop by the house,” she said. “But there they were.”

Her father loved the fish they would bring.

His children loved watching him clean them.

“You could have given him gold and he would not have been happier,” Indy Bostick said.

“He was a guy — when somebody gives him something — who is just absolutely blown away by it.”

Wade Livingston: 843-706-8153, @WadeGLivingston

 

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