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Bill honoring WWII's only Black female unit signed into law

Decades later, the moment has come for 855 women who served in a World War II all-Black women's Army Corps unit to receive the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal.

NORFOLK, Va. — The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, otherwise known as the "Six Triple Eight," is finally getting recognized for its historic impact during World War II. 

Congresswoman Gwen Moore proposed a bill to honor the women in this Army Corps Unit the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal for their contributions to the war.

President Joe Biden recently signed the bill into law and now the women, both alive and posthumously, will receive the prestigious medal.

A Portsmouth woman, Audrey Whitney, served in this unit during the war as a Private First-Class Officer. 13News Now first reported her story in November.

This Army unit consisted of 855 Black women in England who were tasked with clearing more than 17 million pieces of backlogged mail within three months. This doesn't count in all the other pieces of mail they worked through in other parts of Europe.

The Six-Triple-Eight is responsible for single-handedly getting important pieces of communication to government officials, troops, and their families.

However, these women experienced an entirely different journey as they made their way to Europe on a rocky boat and spent months organizing the millions of pieces of mail. All 855 women were segregated from other troops. They were also forced to work, eat, and sleep in unhealthy conditions.

Then, when they came home to the United States after fulfilling their duties, there was no confetti, no parade honoring them.

However, their contributions were recognized decades later, after advocates pushed to build a memorial for these women in Buffalo, NY.

RELATED: Portsmouth woman's mother and her role in a WWII Army unit of Black women

“I am beaming knowing that the Six Triple Eight Congressional Gold Medal Act is now signed into law!" wrote Congresswoman Moore in her press release. "Now, work can begin on designing the coin and planning the formal congressional ceremony to present the Gold Medal to these women and/or their families.” 

The daughter of Audrey Whitney, Anita Fletcher, still lives in Portsmouth. She's been advocating for her mother's recognition ever since she learned about Whitney's contributions, just shortly before her death.

Fletcher said she is excited about this major milestone and cannot wait to accept the medal on her mother's behalf.

"I wasn't just advocating for my mother, but also for the ones that are still alive," said Fletcher. "It was awesome to know that it was done...because that was the last piece to that puzzle."

However, advocates for the Six-Triple-Eight say getting the medal created and presented to all the women, both in-person and posthumously, could take several months to a year. Members of Congress said they have to decide on a design for the medal, and where and how they want to present it.

Fletcher said it feels like a race against time, as there are only about six women from the unit still believed to be alive. 

"We have a lot of older members that are 100-plus, so we do want to get them those medals before they transition," Fletcher said. 

Fletcher hopes she can receive the medal on behalf of her mother in or near Washington D.C., since her family lives in Northern Virginia. She says she is excited, but trying to be patient as she waits for the final presentation.

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