On June 15, 2022, family members finally gathered inside the Military Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate President Joe Biden's signing of the "Six Triple Eight" Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2021.
Military and civilian leaders also attended.
According to retired Army colonel and current Army Reserve Ambassador Edna Cummings, "The 'Six Triple Eight' is currently the only women's military unit to win the nation's highest civilian distinction, the Congressional Gold Medal." Since the American Revolution, Congress has instituted the awarding of Gold Medals as the nation's highest recognition of outstanding accomplishments and contributions.
Less than 200 Congressional Gold Medals have been given out since 1776, according to Cummings, an Army Reserve ambassador who volunteers with the 99th Readiness Division of the Army Reserve. The inaugural laureate was General George Washington.
During World War II, the 6888th was the first and only all-Black, all-female Army unit to deploy overseas. Lt. Charity Adams, the first African-American woman to be appointed to a commission in the Women's Army Corps, was in charge of its 855 female members.
The women of the 6888th worked seven days a week in three distinct shifts of eight hours each. To distinguish amongst Soldiers with the identical names, they maintained track of seven million identification cards with serial numbers. They looked into incorrect addresses and returned letters sent to soldiers who had died in battle.
Dr. Elwood L. Robinson, chancellor of Winston-Salem State University, said, "I don't know that anything like this has happened before for a group of Black women. This event's and this historic moment's grandeur are overpowering."
The Military Women's Memorial, whose purpose it is to recognize and tell the experiences of women, past and present, who serve the country in uniform, served as the venue for the event.
As the president of the Military Women's Memorial, former command chief warrant officer of the U.S. Army Reserve, and current Army Reserve ambassador, retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis Wilson said, "This is where we tell the stories of the three million [service] women like myself, like Edna, like all of the women of the 'Six Triple Eight.’ Like the rest of us, I stand on their shoulders."
No location is more appropriate, in the words of McDonough, "to memorialize and celebrate the tremendous sacrifice, unique tales, and legacies of these Black women warriors who served a cause so much greater than themselves" than this memorial.
The 99th Readiness Division's deputy commanding general, Brig. Gen. Beth Salisbury, and command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Subretta Pompey, attended the ceremony in addition to serving as Army Reserve ambassadors.
The "Six Triple Eight" and the 99th RD have a relationship that dates back to 2020. Sgt. Hilda P. Griggs of the "Six Triple Eight" received a certificate of appreciation from Maj. Lakisha Hale-Earle of the 99th RD on January 19 of that year at a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.
According to Hale-Earle, "Sergeant Griggs... perfectly represents the spirit of her fellow sisters-at-arms who were patriotic, brave, successful, and devoted. We acknowledge that we stand on Sgt. Griggs' shoulders and want you to know that we lead because you led. Your bravery and sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
The 99th RD commanding general honored Griggs with a Meritorious Unit Citation the following month at the division's commemoration of Black History Month at its headquarters on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
“The goal was to honor Sgt. Griggs and tell this virtually untold story about Black history, women’s history and American history,” said Hale-Earle.
Now, the unit's legacy will also be portrayed onstage. A brand-new musical titled Six Triple Eight is being created by Holly Garman and Joe Trentacosta. It tells the story of this unrecognized unit, which was the only all-black all-female battalion sent to Europe during World War II. Holly and Joe were invited to a celebration honoring the 6888th Congressional Gold Medal along with their executive producer Blair Underwood and the creative team of Morgan J. Smart, Ronvé O'Daniel, and Jevares C. Myrick.