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While many across the nation will be enjoying grilling outdoors, vacation and family time, and of course fireworks, some will take time to honor the brave Black brothers and sisters of our nation’s military.

U.S. Marine James B. Anderson Jr. became the first Black soldier to receive the military’s top honors in 1968.

Anderson was born January 22, 1947 in Los Angeles, Calif. He entered the military in 1966 after a short stint in college, and in 1968, he was thrust into the height of the Vietnam War. Anderson’s unit, the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, was under an ambush in a Vietnamese village during “Operation Prairie II” on February 28, 1967.

The rifleman noticed that an enemy fighter tossed a live round near him and his fellow Marines. Without a second thought, Anderson collapsed onto the grenade, pulled it to his chest when it detonated, thus sacrificing his life so that his Marine brothers could live to fight on.

Anderson’s parents were given both the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart medals on August 21, 1968, cementing his legacy among all soldiers who gave their lives in defense of the nation and the world.

To date, there have been 89 Black recipients of the Medal of Honor.

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