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Sarah Jackson 1st Black WAC, Reminisces

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By Cheryl Brown

Sarah Emmert-Jackson celebrated Veterans Day at her home in the Victor Villa retirement community surrounded by Veterans. Her community decided since there were such a large number of veterans from WWII, Korea, and Vietnamresiding there they would erect a memorial.

The granite rock with a bronze plaque simply says "In Memory of All Veterans of all Wars" and is surrounded with emblems from all branches of service. It was a longtime dream of Martin Pickett, a resident of the senior living community. He enlisted help from Eileen Seaberg and Betty Arnold who started to raise money by selling homemade candy. With the support of the management and others who chipped in the monument was ready and Veteran’s Day was fast approaching. The unveiling was a huge success with over 150 of the residents in attendence. They sat swapping war stories.
Mrs. Jackson reminisced about her own days in the Army. It was 1942 she was 21 years old, earning 31 cents an hour working part time for Walgreens. Being good at math and being born and raised in Chicago she could always get a job. Prior to Walgreens she worked for 30 cents an hour at Woolworth Five and Dime. She was also in her last year of college. Upon graduation Jackson could look forward to a salary of $6 a day working as a substitute teacher, only when she was needed.
The War had broken out, the Army was allowing women into auxiliary platoons, she answered the call and her life changed. She was among the first group of 600 women to go into the Army. She joined 38 others in the 3rd Platoon of the 1st Company of the 1st Training Regiment. She is a part of American history and especially African American history. She was being paid $50 a month, had uniforms, a place to stay, hot meals three times a day, and life was good.
At first glance looking at Mrs. Jackson you can’t distinguish her race. She is biracial her mother, a brown skinned African American woman married a German man. Life was good until at the age of five, he just disappeared. The family believes it was foul play because a search of the family history in Germany finds that no one ever heard of him after he disappeared. "Can you imagine what it was like for them to be married," she said.
Mrs. Jackson however doesn’t dwell on the negative. She says being in the Army with all of the good and bad, was still the best time of her life.
Everything about the service was segregated. "All of our classes were segregated for the six weeks of training. Once we were getting our lunch in the common lunchroom but when we sat at the table someone had put the sign "For Colored" on the table. We went on a three day hunger strike we were so insulted," Jackson said. She admits she didnt know anything about protesting but she followed the more experienced women.
We were in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and proud to be. On August 29, 1942 Jackson was commissioned as a 3rd officer equivalent to a 2nd Lieutenant and one year later the WAAC became the Women’s Army Corps.
Jackson was a Captain, travelling all over the United States and teaching property accounting at the Officer’s Candidate School. "Many of the women went on to training companies, jobs in the motor pool, cooks and bakers, some of them held high powered jobs in Washington D.C. and New York before enlisting," she said.
Born and raised in Chicago, Jackson was used to a different type of segregation. But in the South, it was clear and “Jim Crow” signs were unmistakable. "The Army must have made a mistake because I was re-assigned to Virginia for quarter master training. There were seven whites and me. We traveled by train but I had to sit in the segregated train as soon as we got into the south. It was humiliating but the girls with me made me feel better by attempting to join me," she said. By the time I got to the Post it was all over that there was a Colored girl with the others.
Months passed and Jackson met and married her husband and father of her six children. But an example of her tenacity is shown in a story she tells before she left the Army. "It was one of the weekly Saturday marches, I had the Captain bars and I faced the Adjutant who gave me orders to give to the three Captains behind me. As the directions were given my Army training would not let me faint. It was blistering hot weather and I had morning sickness I thought I would die, but I marched anyway," said Jackson.
That is why she believes all youth should go into the service. " The discipline is ingrained. No matter how lowly, get in service! Get Basic Training instead of sitting around twittling you thumbs or working at McDonalds! Get an education in the armed services," she tells the youth of today.
Mrs. Jackson is a member of the National Association of Black Military Women and the High Desert Christian Fellowship. Prior to her return to California from Pensacola, Florida she was treasurer at Bethel AME church there. She retired from teaching after 33 years and is enjoying her home in Victorville, CA.

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