She was one of the first African-American women to serve overseas in the U.S. Army. On Monday, 97-year-old Indiana Hunt-Martin will be featured in the National Memorial Day Parade, along with other members of her battalion.
Hunt-Martin served in the little-known unit known as the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, along with 843 others. They were all women and all African-American.
In 1945, they deployed to Birmingham, England. Their mission: to sort through the millions and millions of letters and packages intended for American GIs serving overseas.
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"We worked on the mail. You should have seen the pile; oh gosh, boxes falling apart," recalled Hunt-Martin, now a resident of Laurel, Maryland.
Born in Lyons, Georgia, in 1922, Hunt-Martin moved to Niagara Falls, New York, with her family as a small child. She graduated from Niagara Falls High School in 1940 and worked at the Carborundum Company before joining the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) on Sept. 15, 1944, because she wanted to help in the war effort and she needed a good job.
"Usually the only jobs we could get were cleaning jobs, babysitting ... You could not work in the stores or banks or anything," Hunt-Martin said.
The members of the 6888th faced racism here in the U.S.
Hunt-Martin recalls taking the train to Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia for basic training: "We rode all the way to Washington, D.C. In Washington we had to change trains, because from there down, you didn't ride in the same trains as the whites."
And she remembers the air raids: "That was right outside of London; we could see the bombs when the Germans were bombing."
Hunt-Martin was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in November 1945. After the war, she worked for the New York State Department of Labor for more than four decades before retiring in 1987.
Hunt-Martin saved mementos from her time serving overseas, including items given to her by soldiers coming back from the front lines.
She also still has part of her uniform — which still fits.
As for whom she'll be thinking about on Memorial Day: her brothers and her nephew. "I always thought about them on Memorial Day and all the other soldiers that didn't make it back," she said.
"It's a day to remember, I can tell you that, 'cause those boys gave their lives for our country," she said. "They should be getting medals; they should be getting something."
Hunt-Martin, who has a daughter and a grandson, still keeps in touch with other surviving members of the 6888th. They're all featured in a new documentary.