Sedona AZ (February 4, 2013) – Very few today have witnessed as much of 20th century American history as WWII Veteran Alyce Dixon. Miss Dixon is 105 years old. She has lived through a century of change since Theodore Roosevelt was president.
During African American History Month, who better than Miss Dixon to reflect on the transitions she has observed as a black American during one hundred years of its history? A war veteran, she has lived through all the major military conflicts of the 20th century, and experienced its cultural and societal changes.
Miss Dixon has lived through the administrations of nineteen American Presidents including that of Barack Obama, the first African American president, a man she thinks is ”Brilliant!” She admits to experiencing racism and sexism, however, she was born with a resilient strength that told her all along that she would overcome.
She explained that her first war job was as a Pentagon civilian secretary. “I felt like I was doing something worthwhile for my country. The Pentagon building was still being built when I was there!”
Every day the women in the secretarial pool would wait for an assignment. “They were calling for the white girls every day,” she recalls. “I went in and talked to the man in charge. I said, ‘I’ve been sitting here now a whole week and you haven’t called me. What’s wrong?’ and the man told me he was trying to find me a spot. So, I said, ‘What are you trying to find me, a ‘black’ spot?”
“I didn’t like that. God made us all. We all eat and sleep and bleed alike. It just doesn’t make any sense,” she declared.
After enlisting in the Women’s Army Corps in 1943, she was assigned to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only unit of “colored” women in the WAC to serve overseas during the war. There were about 900 enlisted women and officers in the battalion commanded by Army Maj. Charity Adams Earley, the highest-ranking black woman in the military after the war.
“I remember Charity Adams asking a general in Washington why there were no black women serving overseas. Major Adams told him she had a lot of intelligent Negro women that should go overseas. And we did.”
Alyce Dixon’s unit worked in a warehouse in France where she and others were assigned to sorting lost and delayed packages of mail. She is sure she remembers “900 billion packages” of mail. Although their work was important to the war effort, the women of the 6888th were still segregated from the other American troops, sleeping in separate barracks and eating in separate dining halls.
But that did not stop Alyce Dixon from doing her job. “I felt like I was doing something worthwhile for my country,” she added.
The two men that this 105-year-old veteran admires the most? The late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. President Barack Obama.
As Miss Dixon reflects on the history of black Americans, she regrets the great number of very intelligent men and women who were never given a chance to share their gifts because of race. She can recite, swiftly, a list of notable American scientists, authors, inventors and artists that were victims of racism, and tell you what they did, and why it was so important.
She hoped for a college education so enrolled at Washington D.C.’s Howard University. But when she heard her father talking about how hard it was to raise six children on his salary — $25 a week, she got a day job and attended night school.
Before losing a leg to an infection several years ago, she worked as a volunteer at several area hospitals. Now she is the longest-residing resident at the Community Living Center at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center and has served as president of the facility’s residence council.She is well-known for her sense of humor.
“I like to tell jokes. You have to laugh a bit and live it up.” It’s that sense of humor that helps her laugh off the surprise some people express when they first see her. “They think I’m a Jewish mother from New York!”
Miss Dixon explained that a medical condition called vitiligo causes her skin to lose its pigmentation. Add the fact she lived in New York City for twenty years and is fond of Yiddish expressions, well, the confusion is understandable.
A quick, lucid, keen reader who loves to talk current events with all visitors, WWII veteran Alyce Dixon is always amused when young people visit and are surprised that she “keeps up” with them. Answering the inevitable question about the secrets to her century-plus longevity, the 105-year-old modern marvel quickly credits “Paying it forward. Being kind to others and helping those in need leads to a long life.”
America salutes you, Miss Dixon. We will aspire to live by your American examples of overcoming adversity, getting an education, and working to help others. Your country thanks you for your service.This article written by staff at the Veterans Administration and edited by this site.