CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – Gladys Schuster Carter was a trailblazer for Black military women.
During women’s history month, members of the Greater Hampton Roads chapter of the National Association of Black Military Women (NABMW) continue to honor her life and legacy.
Carter was a member of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, nicknamed ‘Six Triple Eight.’ The unit was the first and only Black Women’s Army Corps. to go overseas during the war.
“Mrs. Gladys cannot be forgotten. She was part of that unit and I think the people into the area need to know she was part of that unit, military as well as civilians need to know the contributions she made to our country,” said Angela Taylor, Co-founder of Greater Hampton Roads NABMW. “I will never forget her as long as I live. She had such an impact on me. That now I can go out and do advocacy for veterans.”
Carter and over 850 black women worked hard to make sure massive amounts of backlogged mail made it to soldiers in combat.
The overflowing warehouses were stacked with letters and packages for anxiously awaiting soldiers. Three separate eight-hour shifts, seven days a week, would ensure they worked around the clock to deliver the mail. Their motto, “no mail, low morale” would guide them. Their task was not easy. Any “undeliverable” mail was routed into their hands. They diligently tracked service members with their seven million information cards to determine who and where each piece of mail should go to.”-According to the National Archive
“People look forward to their mail when they are in the service. You look forward to mail call. That loved ones were thinking about you and praying for you, “said Taylor, a retired Army Staff Sergeant.
Tyler Perry movie will honor the 6888th Central Postal Battalion in the coming months. In a tweet, the filmmaker writes “To honor the long ignored worth of the 6888 has been the greatest privilege of my career thus far.”
“They didn’t just make a path for us,” said Marcia Pitt-Ridgill, former president of Greater Hampton Roads NABMW. “They dredged a path for us, and you know it was 10 times as hard as it is today,”
After two years of service, Carter earned her bachelors and masters from Virginia State University. She helped create the National Association of Black Military Women and the Greater Hampton Roads chapter of National Association of Black Military Women. The group acknowledges, connects and empowers black service women.
“The military was so much of a man’s world, to have a woman speak out and say we’re going to tell our part meant a whole lot to me because back then, you didn’t have no voice,” Taylor said. “You didn’t have no voice in the 70’s when I went. She was the epitome of what I needed to speak. My voice wasn’t lost anymore because it was for 22 years, it was lost.”
Ahead of her passing in 2009, Carter shared a message with 10 On Your Side during a Black History Month ceremony.
“The women that went in, both were white and black, really paved the way for women’s military today,” Carter said.
“She worked for that,” said Margaret Bage-Greer, a member of Greater Hampton Roads NABMW. “She worked for this, for us, for this and to stop it isn’t fair. It’s not fair to her and to everyone else that is going to come up behind us.”
To continue her legacy, the Greater Hampton Roads chapter of NABMW hopes to recruit a new wave of members. Click here if you would like to join the NABMW – Greater Hampton Roads Virginia (GHRV) group.