BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - At 90 years of age, Benjamin Garrison is known as a loving husband, father and pastor. But Monday the World War II veteran is being recognized for a service seldom found in history books.
"I volunteered, enlisted for the Navy in 1942," said Garrison.
At a time when American society segregated Garrison from whites, he found himself fighting alongside them. His ship, the USS Mason, was the first to have a mostly African-American crew.
"It was an experiment to see if we could do the job and if blacks and whites could live together without any racial hostility - and we did," said Garrison.
Garrison was a radioman, he intercepted and decoded German messages on the ship.
Monday, local high school students and neighbors from his Boynton Beach assisted living facility Emertus, gathered to hear him tell tales.
He was honored for his service, and for doing his part to integrate the armed forces.
"The torch is being passed to the next generation, so they learn things that aren't in history books but they're important to our history," said his daughter S'rah Yisrael.
The story of the USS Mason became a book and then made the big screen. Because of the media attention, crew members were awarded Letters of Commendation in 1994, 50 years after they were first recommended for the honor.
Garrison is grateful for the honor, but he's most thankful he survived the fight.
"I think about being thrown over or hit by a shell, to come out unharmed, I'm thankful because a lot of guys died at sea and never saw their families again," said Garrison.