Milwaukee man one of the first African Americans to serve in the Marines

Photo by: Staff Sergeant William Coffer Junior
By  | 

MILWAUKEE (WTMJ4) — On Sunday afternoon, Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church hall was filled with people to honor a retired Marine for being a trailblazer.

89-year-old retired Staff Sergeant William Coffer Junior was recognized as one of the first African Americans to join the United States Marine Corps. He was presented with a certificate and a Congressional Gold Medal.

In 1948, the then 18-year-old enlisted with the Marines and started training at Montford Point, a segregated boot camp in North Carolina.

"My first experience in the Marine Corps was not a happy one I got floored. I got hit in the stomach and I was down on the floor," Coffer says. He added that experience was before training began.

The motto for men like Coffer at Montford Point was "We fight for the right to fight." Coffer served on bases around the world from South Carolina to Korea.

He joked that he joined the Marines after watching too many John Wayne movies.