He mustered out of the U.S. Marine Corps nearly seven decades ago, but the uniform still fits Sgt. Jesse James Jackson. It is now also decorated with the long-overdue thanks of a grateful nation.
Friends, family and fellow veterans turned out in force Thursday to honor the local man as a trailblazer in the development of the American military.
In afternoon ceremonies at Jackson's retirement home in White Cliffs, U.S. Rep. William Keating presented the World War II veteran with the Congressional Gold Medal for his service with the Montford Point Marines, the first African-American to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.
James, one of the first African-Americans to enlist in the Marines in 1942, served in the Pacific Theater after completing segregated basic training at Montford Point.
Congress recognized the Montford Point Marines in 2011 for their patriotism and achievement, but James was never notified and did not participate in ceremonies honoring other African-American Marines who fought in World War II.
Keating secured the overdue medal for Jackson after learning of the oversight. He presented it Thursday with full military honors.
"People like Jesse, they changed history. They fought the war on two fronts. They fought the war of freedom for our country against fascist attacks. And they fought a war at home, working hard, showing how they could prosper, showing what they were made of, and they moved our country forward domestically as well," Keating said.
(This article originally appeared in the Old Colony Memorial)