It’s been a long time since Lenal Moore talked about his time on Iwo Jima’s black-soiled beaches.
He doesn’t talk about it to almost anyone — in fact, many of his friends had no idea Moore served in the Marines during World War II. But the nightmares still come to find Moore and his mind often drifts to a time and place many would rather forget.
Moore, 87, of Ashtabula, cried barely contained tears Sunday as he was presented the highest honor befitting a Marine — the Congressional Gold Medal. The medal was minted specifically for African American Marines who served at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, N.C. where segregated African Americans were trained for the U.S. Marine Corps. from 1942 to 1949.
Sgt. Maj. Michael Burke said the conditions at Montford Point “were less then ideal.”
Daughter Rose Moore said her father rarely spoke of his Marine Corps days, but wore a leg brace and orthopedic shoe for many years.
“He told us once that during training he had to sleep in the woods because they wouldn’t let him sleep in the barracks with the white soldiers. So he slept on logs in the woods in North Carolina, but he is still proud that he did what he did for his country,” she said.
Burke said the Marine Corps recognizes the hardships African American soldiers faced during segregation.
“(Moore) joined at a time when his country did not treat everyone equally,” he said. “The service of Mr. Moore, and Marines like him, changed the way American operates and the way it treats its citizens.”
Moore, who was born in Arkansas and settled in Ashtabula at the urging of an uncle who lived here, was honorably discharged after he was wounded in the left leg by shrapnel. He married Mary Alice Moore, raised nine children in Ashtabula and retired from Cobbledick Buick Oldsmobile after 30 years of work. He has 24 grandchildren, and “many, many, many, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren,” Rose Moore said.