HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- A Hayward man has received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award given for service to the country.
Joseph Alexander is African American. He served in World War II when segregation in the military was the norm. On Friday, only a few of those who paved the way for other African Americans in the Marines are still alive.
A group of faithful retired United States Marines came to the Veterans Memorial Building in Hayward to honor a man who served his country at a time when his country didn't always serve him.
Alexander received the Congressional Gold Medal on Friday, a tribute for his service as a Marine when African Americans were segregated.
Blacks were only allowed to train at Camp Montford Point in North Carolina.
He was later sent to the Pacific to fight against the Japanese.
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His daughter says when he came back from defending his country, he quickly discovered that nothing had changed for him.
"One time when he came back home to New Orleans he was in his dress blues and of course he had to sit at the back of the bus," Lori Alexander explained.
Years would pass before those African Americans who served in the Marines from 1942 to 1949 would be recognized. Finally, in 2011 President Obama signed a law honoring all those who served at Montford Point with the Congressional Gold Medal.
"It means the country has finally taken a deep breath and they realize that we are all Americans and we all deserve to be treated equally," said Staff Sgt. L.E. Michael Johnson, also a retired U.S. Marine who presented Alexander with the medal.
At 95, Alexander was too fragile to speak. His wife did instead.
"It's wonderful. I know he should be proud because I'm very proud of him," said Elmarie Alexandra with a smile.
Veteran from Hayward honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for his service in World War 2