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NEWS | Jan. 20, 2020

Army Reserve Soldier honors trailblazer at Martin Luther King event

By Sgt. Salvatore Ottaviano 99th Readiness Division

New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way and the New Jersey Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission hosted the state’s annual tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 19 at the N.J. State Museum Auditorium here.

Maj. Lakisha Hale-Earle, chief of G1 plans and training for the U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Readiness Division headquartered at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, served as guest speaker for the event.

This year’s theme, "Telling Our Story,” focused on women leaders of the civil rights movement and equal justice.

“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,” Earl-Hale 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 the ceremony, Earl-Hale presented a certificate of recognition to former Sgt. Hilda P. Griggs, who served in an all-black female postal unit, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, during World War II.

“Sergeant Griggs is one of 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,” Earl Hale said. “Sergeant Griggs, your personal courage and sacrifice are not forgotten – we recognize the fact that we stand on your shoulders and want you to know we lead because you led!”

The 6888th was the first-and-only all-African American, all-female unit to deploy overseas during the war. It consisted of 855 women under the command of Lt. Charity Adams, the first African-American woman commissioned in the Women’s Army Corps.

“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,” Earl-Hale said.

The observance of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. was established by Public Law 98-144 in 1986. This national day of service is celebrated annually on the third Monday in January. King is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor, and is the only non-president memorialized on the National Mall in the nation’s capital.

To learn more about this and other special observances, visit the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute website at