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Blazing Trails for the Future



The National Association of Black Military Women (NABMW) is an association of women located throughout the country who are veterans or current members of the United States Armed Forces. It was founded under the former name of “The Black WAAC, WAC, Women in Service.”

The Beginning: In July 1976 a group of 21 of women who served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II, Korean and Vietnam Wars got together at Lucille Brown’s house in Hampton, Virginia . At this chartered meeting, the group decided to locate and invite other former service women to a first reunion that was held in 1978 in Dallas, Texas. Ever since, Biennial Reunions continued and are now Biennial Conventions.

NABMW MISSION STATEMENT: To seek out, record, maintain and tell the history and heritage of African-American Military Women who served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces.
A few of the NABMW members were members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion which deployed during World War II and consisted of all black women; 855 black women to be exact.

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Black Life Texas

Day of Memorials in Washington, D.C.




By Don Mathis

Austin–Bergstrom International Airport was alive April 21 with an assortment of 40 military veterans gathered for a flight to Washington, D.C. Austin Honor Flight 81 was assigned to tour our nation’s war memorials the next day. 

Old Korea veterans from the Army and Air Force rolled about in wheelchairs. Wise-cracking Cold War Marines mingled with spry veterans from the Vietnam era. I was one of the last Americans to be drafted in May 1971, so was eligible to attend.  

After the TSA checkpoint, it was more of the old Army axiom, “Hurry up and wait.” Then an Honor Guard troop arrived and the Austin Police Department Pipe and Drum Corps got in formation.  

Aides with wheelchairs led our company of veterans down the concourse to the beat of drums, whistles of flutes, and the haunting sounds of bagpipes. Civilian travelers clapped and cheered. Mothers wiped tears from their eyes and young men saluted. A hundred passengers stopped on their way to their gates and filmed our parade.  

Speeches and a blessing followed an acapella rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. Nyle Maxwell owns several car dealerships in Texas and his family sponsored this Honor Flight. Transportation, lodging, meals, and personal guides were given to those who served. *  

The ramp to the aircraft was festooned with red, white, and blue. A water cannon saluted our takeoff. The reception at Reagan National Airport was even more grand. A thousand tourists and businessmen applauded our arrival. This is the welcome that servicemen from Korea and Vietnam never received when they returned home.  

The band of veterans, uniformed in matching shirts and caps with service insignia, boarded the bus for a short trip to a hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, to prepare for a banquet. Guardians and guests sat by the side of dozens of veterans as they were feted for their service.  

poem was offered:  

Children become soldiers; there are a thousand reasons why.
Some will die in combat, others will survive.
I won’t forget their sacrifices, their families who had to wait,
and their careers they put on hold. So, if it’s not too late,
I want to thank the veteran. What he had to do, he did.
Soldiers grow old too fast. It seems yesterday he was just a kid.
We can flower and flag the cemetery. We can shed a little tear.
We can offer our thanks to the living veterans who are still here. 

Speeches and blessings were rendered. But one tribute was unique – The Missing Man Table:  

The table is round, to show everlasting concern for our missing men. The white linen symbolizes the purity of their motives when answering the call to serve. A single rose reminds us of the love of their friends and family. A ribbon symbolizes our continued determination to account for our missing. A slice of lemon reminds us of their bitter fate; captured and missing in a foreign land. A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families who long for answers after decades of uncertainty. The lighted candle reflects our hope for their return, alive or dead. The goblet is inverted, symbolizing their inability to share a toast. The chair is empty, the seat that remains unclaimed at the table. 

The next day, a cigar-chomping character, dressed up like a five-star general, greeted the veterans at the WWII Memorial. Inside the columns, an Honor Guard composed of service men and women from the five branches of military showed respect for the symbols of our country.  

The Star-Spangled Banner was sung by one of the Honor Flight guardians. It was impeccable – until she stumbled. Truth be told, I thought it was a recording until her miss; I thanked her for keeping it real. Some funerals at the National Cemetery in San Antonio feature a recording of “Taps,” played by an electronic bugle. The rendition of “Taps” at the World War II Memorial was real.  

As if on cue, the fountains at the Rainbow Pool sprang to life amid our salute to the Greatest Generation. During WWII, my dad was a sailor in the Pacific; my step-father was a GI in Germany. I carried a dozen American banners in my backpack – and I left a flag for my fathers.  

Each veteran was assigned a guardian to explain the sites and keep us punctual for the next tour bus departure. Our itinerary was tight, but I convinced my guardian to go AWOL with me to see some war memorials on our own.  

The names of the men and women from the District of Columbia who gave their lives in the First World War are inscribed in an open-air Doric structure near the Reflecting Pool. My guardian’s grandfather served in the Great War for Civilization. I left a flag for his service.   

One summer morning 60 years ago, my grandmother rustled me from sleep. “Son, wake up,” she said. “We’re at war.” Instantly, all the images of the war movies I was raised on flashed through my head. So, I left a flag for those early causalities at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  

A nearby statue depicts three American servicemen and the things they carried. An empty wheelchair sat next to the sculpture the day of our visit – a reminder that some veterans came home in a wheelchair; some didn’t come home at all.  

One of my Honor Flight friends recalled his companion who died in Vietnam – and made a rubbing of his name. We looked at a cell phone image of James Wells and gave him a silent salute.  

Down the hill from the United States Institute of Peace, a new memorial is going up. There was a groundbreaking on Constitution Avenue last year for the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial. Organizers hope to have a dedication next year. And across 23rd Street, the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation is planning an edifice to remember those who have served in that struggle.  

2023 is the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. In April, D.C.’s streets were festooned with the flag of South Korea to welcome President Yoon of the Republic of Korea. He and President Biden left a wreath at the Korean War Veterans Memorial a few days after my visit.  

1953 is the first memory I have of my dad when he returned to his two-year-old son after the war in Korea. I left another flag for my father.  

Arlington National Cemetery is a place of solemn beauty, with headstone after headstone in a row. It is a peaceful place befitting those who have seen the horrors of war. The sound of a flag ruffling in the breeze causes the heart to beat a little faster.  

The guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier scuffs his shoe to acknowledge the audience. The Changing of the Guard is a moving ceremony. The presentation of a wreath from Austin Honor Flight 81 was equally overwhelming.  

Although the Potomac River is at the bottom of the hill, a ship’s mast rises above the horizon. The USS Maine Memorial overlooks the graves of 230 service members who died when the battleship exploded off the coast of Havana in 1898. The sinking of this vessel was the impetus for the Spanish-American War. But it was that war that joined America again to be United States. 

A riff between North and South had existed since the Civil War. And it was the victories of Admiral Dewey’s Navy and Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders that unified the nation.  The Arlington Memorial Bridge connects the Lincoln Memorial on the north side of the Potomac River with the Robert E. Lee Memorial in the heart of the National Cemetery.   

This country is experiencing a division like nothing since the Vietnam War. We need that unity once again.  

While at Arlington, I left a flag for an Army major and a Navy captain. The service I receive at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in San Antonio merited a memorial for its namesake. And the father of my best friend is buried nearby; so I left a Salute to Captain Arellano.   

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the flag rising over Iwo Jima was the model for the US Marine Corps War Memorial. The base of the monument lists the names and dates of every principal Marine Corps engagement since their founding in 1775. The list of wars and battles is long – more than 40 engagements – and there is plenty of room for future wars.  

The guide brought to our attention an optical illusion. The flag at the Marine Corps Memorial seems to rise as you drive around it. There is no such thing as an ex-Marine. I left a flag for those who served.  

The Air Force Memorial honors the service and heritage of the men and women of military aviation. It’s located on federal property adjacent to a new section of Arlington National Cemetery. Three memorial spires appear to be soaring; its array of stainless-steel arcs against the sky evokes the image of contrails of Air Force jets.  

My service in the Air Force Reserve brought me to Washington, D.C. several times in the 1970s. I left a flag for my mother’s brothers. Staff Sargent Hollis Walker and Lt. Col. Dick Walker both served in the Air Force in WWII and Korea. Salute to my uncles!   

The Air Force Memorial overlooks the Pentagon. A 9/11 Memorial there commemorates the family members and friends who died in the 2001 terrorist attack. From our vantage point on the river levee, we could see the different colored stone used to repair the damage from American Airlines Flight 77. A nation is held together by its history, by a collective understanding of what has come before us, and what it has meant. This is how we are united together.  

A short stop for sailors only was planned for the United States Navy Memorial. The fountain there is filled annually with waters from the seven seas. Again, my guardian helped me go AWOL to leave a flag for my father’s service in the Pacific during WWII.  

Wars are fought for a variety of reasons. It may pitch hunter-gatherers against farmers or it may be the agrarian vs. the industrial age. Wars may be fought for land or liberty, resources or racism, ethics or to end ethnic violence.  

But if you ask the combatant why he’s fighting, he may tell you it’s for his fellow man. On Memorial Day, we remember those who have fought and fallen. We can flower and flag the cemetery or we can give a silent salute. But we remember. And in Washington, D.C., there are many memorials to aid our memory.  

*Honor Flight is a national organization that transports American veterans to Washington, D.C., to celebrate them for their service and sacrifices. If you know of a veteran from 1975 or earlier, ask them to consider looking into the Honor Flight Network – Honoring American Veterans. 

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SeaWorld Honors Military Appreciation Month – Free Admission for Military




  • SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Antonio, and San Diego provide complimentary one-day admission to military veterans and their families
  • Active-duty military members and their guests continue to enjoy one-day complimentary admission all year long
  • SeaWorld has offered free admission to U.S. military for more than 20 years
  • More than 10 million U.S. military guests and their families have visited the park at no charge through the Waves of Honor program

SeaWorld will honor Military Appreciation Month with free one-day admission for U.S. military veterans and up to three guests to its SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Antonio, and SeaWorld San Diego parks. Veterans can register for this offer through May 14th and have until July 9th to visit the parks with their free tickets.

Active-duty military and their guests continue to enjoy one-day complimentary admission all year long. The offers are part of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s Waves of Honor program, a longstanding partnership saluting active-duty military members, veterans, and their families by offering special pricing and promotions throughout the year.

For more than 20 years, SeaWorld has been proud to provide complimentary park access to members of the United States military. More than 10 million guests – active-duty military members, veterans, and their families – have enjoyed free admission to the company’s parks through the Waves of Honor program. Whether it’s educational animal experiences or thrilling attractions, SeaWorld invites military families for a day of family fun on us. 

“We are proud to honor active-duty military, veterans and their families with a complimentary visit to one of our parks,” said Marc Swanson, chief executive officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “The Waves of Honor program extends a small token of our appreciation to members of our military for their commitment and dedication to serving our county. We welcome all military families for a fun-filled day as a thank you for their continued sacrifice and service.”

Eligible U.S military veterans and retirees can register for complimentary single-day ticket(s) for themselves and up to three dependents before May 14 at After registering, all tickets must be redeemed by July 9. Service members and their direct dependents must have a valid active military ID to participate.

Any U.S. active-duty military activated or drilling reservist, or National Guardsman can also take advantage of one complimentary admission for themselves and up to three dependents per year to SeaWorld. Additional discounts and offers are available for active military and veterans through MWR and ITT offices on U.S. military bases and online at These offers are available year-round and may differ by park.

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The Struggle Continues for Some Veterans




As the nation celebrates Veterans Day on November 11, this year’s theme is honor. Leon Day, who exemplifies honor, was recently featured in the Veteran of the Day article series by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Day was drafted into the Army in 1943, serving with a segregated unit—the 818th Amphibious Battalion, during World War II. Before the military, Day played baseball for the Negro Leagues. 

According to the article, Day “took part in the Battle of Normandy, helping deliver supplies to Utah Beach on June 12, 1944. During this effort, he lost many of his fellow servicemen, describing himself as being ‘scared as hell’ during the experience.”

After the war ended, Day joined the first integrated baseball team in military history, the Overseas Invasion Service Expedition (OISE) All-Star baseball team. This allowed him to pursue his passion for baseball while also serving his country. After being honorably discharged from the Army in 1946, Day returned to the U.S. and continued his baseball career, playing for multiple teams, including the Baltimore Elite Giants and the Newark Eagles. Day died at the age of 78 in 1995 – the same year he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Day represents the 19 million veterans (as of 2021) in the U.S. Only 11 percent of those vets are women. The Black Veterans Project research shows there are more than two million Black veterans in the U.S. 

While Day is no longer alive, his story represents the many veterans who transition back into civilian life after the military. Veterans Day honors those who are still active. Memorial Day, which honors those who died while serving in the military, is celebrated in May. Both are federal holidays.

Over the years, the U.S. has had a peculiar relationship with veterans. It’s had to figure out how to decrease veteran homelessness and the high suicide rate among veterans and help them to get employment after leaving the military. 

On a single night in January 2022, about 33,136 veterans experienced homelessness in the U.S, according to data from the 2022 Point-in-Time Count for Veterans, which is a collaboration with the VA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. This reflects an 11% decrease in veterans experiencing homelessness from 2020 and a 55.3% reduction in homelessness since 2010. The decline follows several years where the number of homeless veterans remained unchanged, despite having decreased significantly from 2010-2016. Despite veterans’ many challenges during 2021, ending homelessness remains a top priority for VA.

The Black Veterans Project said Black veterans account for a third of our nation’s homeless veteran population and are twice as likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts. The Project is a think tank advancing research, dynamic storytelling, advocacy and litigation to address systemic racial inequities across the military and veterans landscape.

The Black Veterans Project said while Black Americans continue to serve at disproportionately higher rates, discrimination and bias have a demonstrable effect on nearly every facet of military life. Black troops remain over-represented in service-oriented roles, have a diminutive presence in the officer corps, and remain overwhelmingly absent from elite training schools. 

Since 2020, the Project has partnered with Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic to compel Veterans Affairs to release two decades of data revealing systemic and significant disparities in the allocation of disability benefits. This work informed congressional action supporting the passage of a Government Accountability Office study, which will be published in 2023. 

Additionally, the Project’s research reveals that Black service members face a 32 to 71 percent greater likelihood of punishment across the military, and 1 in 3 Black service members fear reporting discrimination for fear of retribution. 

To help address some of these issues, the Project’s research has informed a host of federal policies, such as the Military Justice Improvement Act, the Honoring our Pact Act, and the Deborah Sampson Act. It has been critical in supporting the advancement of the Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr. and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act. This restoration act (H.R. 5905) would compensate descendants of World War II Black veterans. 

The bill, introduced in November 2021, still has a way to go in Congress and the Senate before becoming law. The bill states, “Though the legislative text of the GI Bill was race-neutral, the administration of benefits through national, State, and local Veterans Administration offices resulted in a pattern of discrimination against racial minorities, especially African Americans.

Veterans Administration benefits counselors denied African Americans access to educational benefits at certain universities and funneled applicants into industrial and vocational schools rather than higher education opportunities, with just 6 percent of African American veterans of World War II earning a college degree, compared to 19 percent of White veterans of World War II.

In administering its housing guaranty program, the Veterans Administration adopted the Federal Housing Administration’s racial exclusion programs also known as redlining, which excluded a significant number of African Americans from taking full advantage of the housing guaranty program.”

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