Army Reserve Soldiers honor African-American history pioneer

By Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris | 99th Readiness Division | Feb. 28, 2020

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. —

Soldiers of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Readiness Division celebrated African-American History Month by honoring a trailblazer Feb. 22 at the Maj. John P. Pryor U.S. Army Reserve Center here.

Maj. Gen. Mark Palzer, 99th RD commanding general, presented a Meritorious Unit Citation to former Sgt. Hilda P. Griggs, who served in the Second World War’s 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only all-African-American, all-female unit to deploy overseas during the war.

“The goal was to honor Sgt. Griggs and tell this virtually untold story about black history, women’s history and American history,” said Maj. Lakisha Hale-Earle, who was instrumental in bringing Griggs to the 99th after having met her during a Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration in Trenton this past January.

The theme of this year’s African-American History Month observance is, “Honoring the Past, Securing the Future.” The Department of Defense is commemorating the 75th anniversary of World War II by recognizing the contributions and sacrifices made by African-American service members.

“In the U.S. military, we study past leaders to gain inspiration from trailblazers as we continue to strive for excellence in our every pursuit,” Hale-Earle said. “From Cathay Williams, the first African-American woman to enlist in the Army in 1866, to Nadja West, the first African-American woman promoted to the rank of three-star general in 2016, the U.S. Army boasts a proud history of women who have lead.”

During World War II, more than 2.5 million African-American men registered for the draft, and African-American women volunteered in large numbers.

Divided into three separate, eight-hour shifts, the women of the 6888th worked around the clock, seven days a week. They kept track of seven million identification cards with serial numbers to distinguish between Soldiers with the same names. They investigated incomplete addresses and returned mail addressed to Soldiers who had been killed in the war.

“Sgt. Griggs is one of only eight surviving members of the ‘Six Triple Eight;’ she fully embodies the spirit of her fellow sisters-at-arms who were patriotic, brave, accomplished and loyal,” Hale-Earle said. “I am proud to serve in a military that embraces lessons learned from the past, promotes diversity as a staple of organizational success and guarantees equal pay for equal service regardless of race, creed or gender.”

The observance of African-American/Black History Month was established by Public Law 99-244. This observance runs through the month of February and celebrates the contributions of African-Americans to the nation. The theme for this event changes each year.

To learn more about this and other special observances, visit the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute website at https://www.deomi.org/human-relations/special-observances.cfm.

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