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Arizona women receive Congressional Gold Medal

Posted at 3:45 PM, May 25, 2022

MESA — Two Arizona veterans received an award for their roles in an all-Black, all-female battalion.

Ret. Major Fannie McClendon and late Cpl. Lydia Thornton were two of the 855 women that served in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion during World War II.

Members of the “Six Triple Eight” were responsible for clearing a backlog of mail and making sure certain American troops received letters from home to boost their morale.

For years, the unit's contributions went overlooked but have started to be recognized in the last few years.

McClendon, 101, lives in Tempe and was on hand to receive the award.

"People are now understanding what we accomplished while we were there," she said.

Thonrton died about 10 years ago and was represented by her daughters.

One of them told ABC15 she was happy that her mom is getting the recognition she deserved.

"I'm relieved that they've been recognized," said Alva Stevenson, one of Thornton's daughters.

“The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s gratitude for the 6888th Battalion and the thousands of African American women who served in the Army during WWII,” said retired Col. Edna W. Cummings, 6888th Advocate.

“Their service will never be forgotten as soldiers and trailblazers for gender and racial equality.” she added.

The award was presented by Maj. Gen. Kerry Muehlenbeck, the state's director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs.

"This is absolutely well-deserved, far too late...and I couldn't be more honored to stand here," she said.

For more information about the battalion and their impact, please visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' website.