Millie Dunn Veasey, armed forces pioneer, dies at 100
Herb Boyd | 4/5/2018, 1:43 p.m.
Millie Dunn Veasey may not have considered herself a hero or anything special but that wasn’t the thinking of thousands of admirers, including President Barack Obama. Among her duties as a member of the only all-female, all-Black unit during World War II was to ensure the morale of troops, by getting the mail to them in a timely fashion.
As a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, Veasey was among the Black women in the Army to decrease the shortage of manpower, an action propagated by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and assisted by Mary McLeod Bethune. Veasey’s postal unit was the 6888 or, as they dubbed it, the “Six Triple Eight.”
Her service in the military was recalled March 6, when Veasey made her transition not too long after her 100th birthday. She was one the last surviving African-American women to have served in WW II.
She was born Millie Dunn in Raleigh, N.C. and was one of six children. After seeing posters of white women in the military, she felt that was something she could do too. “I thought to myself that if those white women can do it, so can I,” she told a reporter. “And besides that, my country needs me.”
Veasey and her unit had an awesome responsibility recalled Beth-Ann Koelsch, curator of the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina, during an interview on BBC.
athese women were very educated but the only jobs commanding officers had thought they could do were janitorial, or working in the kitchen.”
Once assigned in England, the women were isolated from the other units as well as from the white women in uniform. They faced a deluge of challenges, including a backlog of mail and packages, some of which had not been distributed in years. Sorting the mail and getting it to the rightful recipient was an arduous task, made even worse when packages were filled with rotting food.
It wasn’t unusual for them to work 24 hours in three eight-hour shifts as they handled 65,000 items of mail per shift. Remarkably, the unit completed the task in three months, half the expected time. They had to perform the same rescue mission in France after leaving England.
Veasey was on leave in London when the bells chimed there indicating the war was over.
Given her high IQ and military prowess, Veasey was offered an opportunity to become an officer but chose to attend college instead. She was later employed as a teacher and executive secretary to the president of St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh. In 1963, having already earned her spurs in the Civil Rights Movement, she participated in the March on Washington, even walking alongside Dr. King.
Two years later she became the first female president for the NAACP in Raleigh, and remained active in the organization until her last years.
After being honored as a living legend by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, unfortunately, she was unable to attend and to share the moment with Gen. Colin Powell, one of her heroes. But in September 2016 she was saluted in the White House by President Obama as he commemorated the women who served in the armed forces.
“I don’t think of myself as a hero,” Veasey, who leaves a daughter and son, told North Carolina Public Radio. “My approach is that you don’t ask persons to do no more than you’re gonna do yourself. We wanted to get things done, and we got things done.”
Indeed, and quite promptly and professionally.