PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Flags are flying at half-staff in Virginia on Monday in honor of a groundbreaking figure and public servant from Hampton Roads.

Wallace Green Jr. died on August 10 at age 92.

He was one of the Montford Point Marines, the first Black Marines in the country’s history. Green served in both Korea and Vietnam and retired after 22 years of service at the rank of First Sergeant. He and his fellow Montford Point Marines were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2012.

“From 1942 to 1949, nearly 20 thousand African-American men joined the Marine Corps despite harsh contradictions between fighting for democracy overseas and the denial of civil rights at home,” a certificate of recognition with their award reads. “After completing arduous and segregated basic training at Montford Point Camp, North Carolina, these Marines served with distinction in World War II’s most challenging struggles in the Pacific. Some made the ultimate sacrifice; others continue their service through Korea and Vietnam and back home in the continued fight for civil rights.”

Green was born in Smithfield and attended Booker T. Washington High in Norfolk before enlisting in the Marines at the age of 17.

Rep. Elaine Luria, a Navy veteran, said in a statement that Green was “a pillar of our military community in Hampton Roads” and continued to give back to the community long after his retirement from a 21-year career with Norfolk Public Schools.

“1st Sgt. Green is an American hero,” Luria said in the statement. “His selflessness, perseverance, and commitment to serving others will continue to inspire generations across the country. The United States and Coastal Virginia are better off because of 1st Sgt. Green, and we will miss him dearly. I am keeping his family and friends in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.” 

Green joined the school system in 1974 after getting an education degree from Old Dominion, and would later go on to earn a master’s degree in education and a master of divinity degree. He was also a devout Christian and served as a bible school teacher at Queen Street Baptist Church in Norfolk for decades.

“He was loved and admired by many and had a natural and particularly trained ability to counsel and encourage others,” a passage from his obituary reads. “… Deacon Wallace Green will be remembered as a faithful husband, an adoring dad, a grandpa, a Proud Marine, a teacher, and a deacon — a dedicated and humble servant with unshakable faith, always giving glory to God.”