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The Funeral for: 1st Black Officer /Marine Corps

A Trailblazer's Farewell
Mourners Gather at Quantico to Honor Marines' First Black Officer

By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page B01

Most were there out of plain love, some out of duty and many others, strangers, came to the rolling green lawn of Quantico National Cemetery on a warm spring day to thank a man they never knew.

Here was Lance Cpl. Sha'ahn Williams, 27, who hadn't put on her dress uniform in a while but did so yesterday for Capt. Frederick C. Branch, the first African American officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. She came early. She fidgeted with her ribbons -- "I'm always self-conscious about my ribbons," she said -- which were barely crooked. She wanted to look perfect. She stood in the sun and waited for his funeral procession to arrive, looking out over the grass.

"I'm from Philadelphia, and I didn't even know about him until recently," she said, noting that Branch was from Philadelphia, too. "I know it's cliche, but it's true that people like me couldn't get in if it weren't for him," said Williams, who is black.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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