By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,
On May 3, 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion Day became a commemorative day for Maryland.
Gov. Wes Moore, along with Lt. Governor Aruna Miller, Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones signed the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion Day, HB370, into law.
The largely African-American, all-woman battalion will be annually recognized in Maryland starting March 9, 2024. The women worked to clear an egregious backlog of mail during wartime. Their efforts, as 6888th advocate and retired Col. of the U.S. Army Edna W. Cummings described it, boosted morale as soldiers were once again reconnected to their loved ones and able to receive important communications.
Aside from HB370, the day was packed with over 200 bills signed into law in front of a sizable crowd that arrived to celebrate the legislative wins. Bills signed on May 3 included the Right to Reproductive Freedom, the Trans Health Equity Act and the Cannabis Reform Bill.
“Several of today’s bills solidify Maryland’s position as a healthcare leader,” said Speaker Adrienne A. Jones at the ceremony.
Moore weighed in on what cannabis reform will mean for Marylanders.
“We want to make sure that the legalization of marijuana lifts those communities
[low-income and people of color
] in a profound way,” said Moore to the attendees at the signing.
This was the fourth bill signing day of 2023, according to Moore.
House Bill 370, sponsored by Del. Mike Rogers (D-32) was passed on April 8, with the help of favorable testimonies from Cummings and AFRO Publisher Frances “Toni” Draper, a relative of Vashti Murphy Matthews (1921-1981), who served in the unit. Janice Martin, daughter of Indiana Hunt Martin, was also there to honor her mother’s service in the squadron.
Cummings, Draper and Martin all attended the signing.
“The 6888th’s history is not well known throughout Maryland. Each year, March 9 will remind us of the selfless service of these Black women who served their country when their country did not serve them,” said Cummings in a statement to the AFRO. “This commemorative day provides an opportunity to learn more about the trailblazing journey of Black Maryland veterans who were at the forefront of civil rights during World War II and beyond.”
Martin shared her excitement.
“It’s just overwhelming,” said Martin to the AFRO after the event. “It’s really been a journey for all of us and I’m just so happy.”
Rogers reflected on the commemorative day’s ability to encourage other Black soldiers.
“I’m just honored, as the bill sponsor, to be a part of this. I know this will be a legacy that other soldiers in the future will be able to look back on and use as motivation to help them be all they can be,” said Rogers.
Those gathered for the signing ranged from supporters and 6888 descendants to high ranking officials.
Adjutant General for the Maryland National Guard, Janeen L. Birckhead joined the celebration.
“I came out to support the advocates of the 6888th,” said Birckhead. “The 6888th are the women who went before me and gave so much to serve so that I could be a two-star general in the army. It means a lot.”
She said “If we think about the resources that we have today, as soldiers in the army, and what they had to deal with and overcome. It’s phenomenal and it deserves to be recognized.”
Birckhead continued, “Today, we can get an email in an instant from our parents and significant others which can be uplifting while deployed in the military. Just think about the soldiers who had to wait months to hear from a relative, about a newborn child or about their parents and to have a positive outlook and to keep fighting when they wanted to stop.”
The 6888th legacy has also been recognized in recent events, such as the rededication of Fort Lee to Fort Gregg-Adams, named after Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg and former 6888th Commander, Lt. Col. Charity Adams.
Martin is looking towards the commemoration of her mother through the renaming of a postal office in Buffalo, NY.
“I’m waiting for the post office to be renamed in Buffalo. I will follow up on that next week,” said Martin.
Rogers encourages Marylanders to learn more about the unit’s history, what the unit did and the conditions they had to go through throughout their mission.
Martin said she wants students to make March 9 a history day “to learn more about the 6888th and any other Battalions that have been lost in history.”
Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.