News: 106-year-old Army World War II veteran honored
Story by Lisa Ferdinando
WASHINGTON D.C. -- Army World War II veteran 106-year-old Alyce Dixon was among the extraordinary women honored at the Pentagon for their exceptional contributions to the Army and the nation.
The Department of Defense honored Dixon and two others -- Sexual Assault Prevention advocate Spc. Natasha Schuette, and Tracey Pinson, director of the Army's Small Business Program -- March 31, for their exceptional character, courage, and commitment to Army values.
Each honoree received a Lifetime Achievement "Women of Character, Courage and Commitment" award, and a Women's History Month certificate of appreciation.
At 106-years old, Dixon has seen the nation and the world go through monumental changes.
She said she was proud to be at the Pentagon receiving the award and is thrilled at the great things that women have achieved in her lifetime.
Dixon was born when Theodore Roosevelt was president, lived through the Great Depression, witnessed six major American wars, and saw 18 presidents elected, including the first African-American president, said Barbara Stansbury, the master of ceremonies at the event, and a staffer with the Army's Directorate of Equal Employment Opportunity.
Dixon served the nation faithfully as a member of the Women's Army Corps, or WAC, during World War II, and then for 35 years as a federal employee.
She began that service more than 70 years ago, when she was one of the first African-American women to join the WAC, Stansbury said.
Dixon has traveled the world and is known for her jokes and quick wit, she said.
"Her philosophy is 'You've got to laugh a little bit,'" Stansbury said.
"Ms. Dixon is truly an amazing woman of extraordinary character, courage and commitment," she said.
"I want to say thank you very much for all those kind words," Dixon said.
"I'm still hanging on at 106 years, and I'm very happy to be here. I joined the Army in 1943, before a lot of you were born even, and things were not good at that time," she said.
During World War II, Dixon served in Europe as a member of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.
The 6888th was the only unit of African-American women in the WAC to serve overseas in England and France during World War II.
The women were charged with eliminating the enormous backlog of floor-to-ceiling stacks of undelivered mail and packages addressed to U.S. service members, Stansbury said.
Mail delivery was hampered due to dangerous wartime actions throughout Europe, and that had a major impact on morale.
Another difficulty was that many packages were addressed to names like 'Junior,' or 'Buster,' U.S. Army. However, with the Soldiers' identifying number on the letter, the mail could be sent to the correct person.
"Realizing the importance of this task, the 6888th worked tirelessly each day and cleared a backlog of mail in half the time it was expected to take. These amazing women cleared over 90 billion pieces of mail," Stansbury said.
After the war, Dixon worked in the Pentagon in requisitions, where she purchased everything "from pencils to airplanes," and retired from the Pentagon in 1972, after 35 memorable years, Stansbury said.
Demonstrating the wit and good humor she is known for, Dixon had the audience laughing throughout her speech.
"When I first went in, they wanted to send me to the hospital to be a nurse. I said 'no, no, no. I'm allergic to hospitals, [I] can't go there,'" she joked.
"I had a wonderful time in the service. I enjoyed it very much," she said.
"When I joined, they asked me, 'Why did I join?' In 1943, I said 'They've taken all the men, I got to follow them," she said to laughter, adding: "If men can do it and help the country, we can too."
"We worked hard and did a lot of good things," she said.
Dixon said she is so proud to see such "beautiful things" happening with African-American women, and all women who are doing so much in the Army.
"I'm so pleased about that; they've moved right on up to the top. Good for you," she said.