For his 108th birthday, an original member of the Montford Point Marines ― the group of the first Black troops to enlist in the Marine Corps ― was recognized for his years of dedicated service across three military conflicts.
Cosmas D. Eaglin Sr. of Fayetteville, North Carolina, was presented earlier in January with a certificate of appreciation and a challenge coin from the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, according to a statement from the department.
“When I learned of Mr. Eaglin and his service to our country, I found it truly admirable and an inspiration,” retired Lt. General Walter E. Gaskin, the secretary of the state military department, said in the news release.
“As an original Montford Point Marine, he endured unimaginable obstacles in the segregated Marine Corps,” he said. “Because he was a Marine, I am able to be a Marine. His contributions to the nation and the Marine Corps will be remembered and his legacy will live on for generations to come.”
Eaglin was one of the first Black Marine recruits to train at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina — nearby Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina — after President Franklin Roosevelt issued a 1941 executive order that took a step toward ending racial segregation in the military.
During the 1940s, approximately 20,000 Black Marines trained at Montford Point, now named Camp Gilbert H. Johnson after one of the first Black recruits there.
In 2022, for the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the initial Black recruits at Montford Point, many of the surviving veterans met back at their old training base for a ceremony celebrating the historic legacy of the Black service members who helped pave the way for integration in the Marine Corps and throughout the services.
Born in 1915 in Opelousas, Louisiana, Eaglin worked in agriculture after high school until he earned his teaching certificate in 1939, according to a bio shared with Marine Corps Times from the North Carolina DMVA Director of Communications Tammy Martin.
In 1942, Eaglin joined the Marine Corps at 27 years old, the statement said. He served two years in the Solomon Islands campaign during World War II, but left the service after the war.
Following a brief stint in Oakland, California, with his family, Eaglin decided to join the Army, which took him on assignments back east in Georgia, Kentucky and Maryland for training.
In the midst of the Korean War, the soldier earned his paratrooper wings and was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1951. He later served a three-year assignment in Germany from 1956–1959 with Operation Gyroscope and did two tours in Vietnam, the bio said.
Now, at the North Carolina State Veterans Home in Fayetteville, Eaglin focuses on his faith and family, including his six children, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, the news release said.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media