Oldest Living Member Of A World War II Battalion Of Black Women Gets Congressional Gold Medal

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Romay Davis, the oldest living member of a World War II battalion of Black women, has been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. The U.S. Army, which revealed the recognition in a statement Monday, described the award as the highest honor Congress gives to civilians.

Davis, who was one of the 855 Black women who served in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion during World War II, received her medal at Montgomery City Hall in Alabama on July 26.

“Joining the military is one of the biggest and best things I have chosen to do,” Davis, said, according to the Army. “I wish I could encourage more young people to take a stint away from home and join the military because it is one of the best educations one can get.”

The Six Triple Eight battalion, which was the only predominantly Black female unit that served overseas during WWII, played a key role in making sure mail was delivered to American troops.

The group processed more than 195,000 pieces of mail a day, which was mostly backlogged in England and France. Working together with the motto “no mail, no morale,” the battalion eventually cleared more than 17 million pieces of mail by the end of their tour.

“During World War II, Black and female Americans fought for a double victory — victory against fascism overseas and victories against racism at home,” Col. Eries Mentzer, 42nd Air Base Wing commander, said at the ceremony.

Davis had requested for Mentzer to host her medal recognition ceremony.

“The service of the 6888th demonstrated the talent and worth of minority and female Americans in service to our country abroad and paved the way for greater equal opportunity and civil rights in American communities,” Mentzer said, according to the U.S. Army. “I humbly follow in an exceptional legacy of Ms. Davis and the 6888th, they paved more freedom to serve, and I am incredibly honored, grateful and frankly here because of their service.”

Despite facing discrimination, including how they were forced to use segregated facilities and water fountains during military training, the woman continued to fight selflessly as part of the armed forces.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C. Q. Brown, Jr., raved about Davis in a video tribute shown at the ceremony.

“She persevered, led through incredible trying times, changing the face of our military and in doing so set a shining example that still continues to do so today,” he said. “She even earned a black belt in Taekwondo in her 70s. That’s what I call perseverance. Nearly 80 years from her brave service, we have our first African American secretary of defense and service chief and our first female chief master sergeant of the Air Force. We stand on the shoulders of giants. … Congratulations, Private First Class Romay Davis.”

Davis was assigned to the motor pool while serving in the battalion. When she wasn’t sorting mail, the trailblazer drove 2 1/2 ton trucks and staff cars as part of her duties.

Davis attended fashion school after the war and worked as a designer for 30 years. The veteran was also honored with an award after she showed exceptional dedication while working at a Winn-Dixie grocery store in her 80s. The parent company of the grocery store recognized Davis with the Belonging, Inclusion and Diversity Grant Program award.

“The grant program supports deserving organizations that assist in leveling the playing field for communities that face racial disparities in education, health care and food insecurity,” the company stated in a press release.