At New York's famed Carnegie Hall on Wednesday night, Cresencia Garcia, 101, a former Army medical assistant, was honored during a salute to veterans. Garcia is one of the many unsung patriots during America's Jim Crow years. Working around the clock, she cared for and treated the sick and the wounded, Black and white. Color didn’t matter, despite the brutal indignities of racism she endured on both sides of the Atlantic.
“I couldn’t go in there because I was Black. I couldn’t sit there to eat because I was Black,” Garcia says. She was part of the Army's segregated 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, nicknamed “Six Triple Eight" — all Black and all women, some assigned delivering the millions of letters from the home front.
Their motto: No Mail, Low Morale.
Four women are buried in the American cemetery at Normandy in France, three of them from the 6888th. Historian John Monsky says that only a few of Garcia's colleagues are left and that time is running out for them to be recognized. "I think this is a tribute to Black Americans. They showed up and they fought every time that America called upon them,” Monsky says.
Born in Puerto Rico, Garcia went to New York for a better life and says she found it. After the deadly attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941, Garcia felt the calling. “All the girls were going to the Army, so I said, 'Why can’t I?' So I joined,” she says.
Service is a tradition for her family. Her husband, an Army sergeant, survived an attack on the HMT Rohna, a British troop ship, in the deadliest attack at sea, which left more than 1,000 people dead. They named their daughter after the ship. Her sons, Esteban and Angel, are Vietnam veterans, having served in the Army and the Marines. Her proud granddaughter Tara says that she is an amazing treasure and that it’s about time her humble grandma gets the recognition she deserves.
“The fact that she served so blindly, it’s just a testament to who she is but also a reminder to me to make sure that this story is told and shared,” Tara says.
Garcia even survived Covid last year, a different kind of fight on a much different battlefield. Today, family and friends of the 6888th are lining up sponsors to urge Congress to honor the battalion with a Congressional Gold Medal.
“Even though what I did was change beds, clean and feed patients, I never got any stripes, but I got pride,” Garcia says.