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N.C. veterans affairs department honors African-American service members

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Calvin Morrow (copy) (copy)

Calvin Morrow of Greensboro was one of five honorees at the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs’ “African American Veterans Lineage Day.”

RALEIGH — John R. Thompson served in the Montford Point Marines, the first black Americans permitted to enter the U.S. Marine Corps.

Calvin Morrow and 44 young African-American men broke the Navy’s color barrier when they formed its first all-black band during World War II.

On Wednesday, the two Greensboro men were among five veterans honored by the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs as part of the agency’s “African American Veterans Lineage Day.”

The ceremonies at the N.C. Museum of History celebrated the contributions of African-Americans in the U.S. military.

The five men broke color barriers when the military was segregated.

Also honored were Gunnery Sgt. Robert L. Thomas of Durham, a member of the Montford Point Marines; Charles A. Stevens Sr. of Fayetteville, a member of the 555th “Triple Nickle” Battalion; and Henri A. LeGendre of the 9th Cavalry “Buffalo Soldiers.” LeGendre, formerly of North Carolina, now lives in Spanish Fort, Ala.

Each honoree received the Old North State Award. The governor presents the award to recognize “dedication and service beyond expectation and excellence to the Great State of North Carolina.”

Morrow, 94, was unable to attend. Pamela Carlson, daughter of band member Walter F. Carlson Jr., accepted the award on Morrow’s behalf.

The veterans taped a radio show.

The department also will produce a documentary to salute the five African-American service members who broke color barriers when the U.S. military was segregated.

The documentary will be made in collaboration with the museum, Elizabeth City State University, the Sports Shop Radio and the Carolina Small Business Development Fund.

“These brave men exemplified what it means to serve their country and to hold your head high in the face of adversity,” Larry Hall, department secretary, said in a news release.

Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.

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