OCEANSIDE — At the front of the Independence Day Parade lineup June 30, sandwiched between the Naval Hospital of Camp Pendleton and Mayor Jim Wood, were this year’s parade marshals Oscar Culp and George Mitchell.
The two men served in World War II and have long served Oceanside as businessmen and community leaders.
“They have been giving back to the community for a long time,” Cathy Nykiel, parade committee volunteer, said. “They’ve seen so many changes in civil rights from World War II to the present. Things that have changed for the better.”
Culp and Mitchell grew up in the south and can recall the days of segregated public restrooms and drinking fountains.
“We could buy their gas, but not use their restrooms,” Culp said.
They trained to be U.S. Marines at Montford Point, N.C., which was a segregated training ground for black Marine units. Living conditions there were poor and white training officers were rude, Culp said.
The two men survived training camp and thrived in the military. Both Culp and Mitchell rose to Master Gunnery Sergeant.
Culp said that bullets did not know color on the battlefield. He added that strong bonds were formed with fellow Marines regardless of race.
After World War II, Culp and Mitchell met up at Camp Pendleton.
They later opened CMC Furniture and Appliance on Seagaze Drive and have long been active in local civic groups, church groups and nonprofit organizations.
Culp was the first recipient of the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award and first black board member of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce.
Culp and Mitchell join the list of community leaders that have led the Independence Day Parade, which includes Junior Seau, Albert Kapitanski and John Daley.