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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Denis R. McDonough

Memorial Service for Ms. Deloris Ruddock
6888th Central Postal Director Battalion
Baltimore National Cemetery
April 20, 2021

Patricia Helldoorn, I offer you my deepest sympathy on the passing of your mother, Ms. Deloris Ruddock. I’m humbled and honored by the privilege to reflect on her courageous service and powerful life. I pray her memory is a blessing to you.

Janice Martin, thank you supporting Patricia, being her friend during this difficult time.

Ms. Ruddock was a proud woman. She was proud of her heritage. She was proud to be an American. And she was rightly proud of her service. Once asked about her service, she simply stated—but we all know enormously understated—“I did what I was told, and I did what I had to do.”

Her task and the task of her fellow soldiers was unprecedented, delivering a two-year backlog of mail in six months. They did it in three. When the chips were down and morale was low, they delivered the mail.

They delivered the mail. News from home. News of births, news of deaths. News from wives and girlfriends, moms and dads, brothers and sisters. In delivering the mail, Deloris and the 6888th connected the men on the front lines to what they loved and who they fought for.

But Deloris’s story is much larger than that, as incredible as it is. Ruddock helped change how the world sees and defines Black women. Deloris is the story of black women fighting for inclusion and the right to serve.

Deloris’s is the troubled and inspirational story of diversity and inclusion in our military formations and broader society. Deloris’s story of triumph in the face of adversity is America’s story, a story that’s deeply rooted in our rich diversity.

Think about it. African Americans have fought for our nation since the revolution, helping the militia and the Continental Army secure America’s independence.

African Americans in the segregated 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment fought heroically during the Civil War to preserve this Union, abolish slavery, and heal the country.

Black Soldiers fought as the famed “Buffalo Soldiers” during our country’s expansion west.

More than a million Black Americans in uniform fought courageously in World War II to turn the tide of tyranny: the Tuskegee Airmen, The Montford Point Marines, the Triple Nickel soldiers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the Soldiers of the Red Ball Express, the 761st Tank Battalion, and three all-Black divisions—the 2nd Cavalry and the 92nd and 93rd Infantry.

World War II witnessed the heroism of the famed 442nd Regimental combat team—a segregated unit of Americans of Japanese Ancestry. Many of those soldiers fought that war even as their own families were locked in internment camps. Puerto Rican Soldiers of the 65th Infantry Regiment, the Borinqueneers, served during World War I, World War II, and in Korea, where they fought valiantly while fighting racism.

And there’s Deloris’s women, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only black Women’s Army Corps unit deployed to Europe in World War II. They fought for freedoms they did not fully enjoy themselves. They, too, are the women of “The Greatest Generation.” They, too, answered a call to arms during the Second War. And as a result of their courage and strength, they ended up saving the world.

And they helped change our world. Largely because of these Veterans, their examples of duty and courage, President Harry S. Truman ordered in 1948 that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.”

That’s why I share stories of these magnificent men and incredible women of color. They teach us that honor, courage, and patriotism have nothing to do with race, have nothing to do with ethnicity, nothing to do with religion, and nothing to do with gender. Theirs are examples for others to follow in the long march to equality, to embracing and celebrating the humanity and dignity of all people.

That is what Ms. Ruddock’s story is about.

Patricia, today your mom joins her 6888th sister-in-arms Ms. Emily Noisette Cox on these hallowed grounds. They’re having a joyous reunion.

And in a lasting tribute to your mother, I am presenting you with the Presidential Memorial Certificate.

May God bless the memory of Ms. Deloris Ruddock, your mother. And may God bless all of us.