6888th Veteran Romay Travels through VR
Romay has lived a life full of experiences of every kind—and that’s not by accident.
She is a WWII Veteran and had a fulfilling career in fashion, alongside other interesting jobs. Her long list of hobbies includes painting and photography, and she is known for her immaculate gardening. Romay has been a docent and has modeled in fashion shows. And she even has a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo—which she earned at age 76.
“I’m a ball of curiosity and interest,” she explained. “I don’t want a monotonous life that stands still. I like activity. I like beauty. I like laughter. I like to be able to do something…that’s what keeps me going.”
And at age 102, Romay has no plans of slowing down. She loves learning and seeks knowledge and new experiences at every opportunity.
A defining experience in Romay’s life was her service in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. Nicknamed “SixTripleEight,” Romay’s unit was the only all-Black and all-female unit sent overseas during WWII.
The women of SixTripleEight faced a unique and crucial goal: solving the U.S. Army’s mail crisis. With over 7 million service members abroad, there was a backlog of mail of over six months. In Europe, warehouses were piled to the ceilings, full of unsorted letters waiting to reach their loved ones.
The 6888th underwent intense basic training and received extensive education to prepare for the dangers and challenges they would face during their mission abroad. In the winter of 1945, they were deployed to England and began their work.
But it was so much more than just sorting mail. With their motto of “No mail, low morale,” they were determined to succeed and boost the morale of the U.S. forces stationed abroad. They overcame the dangers of a warzone, cold and dark working conditions, long shifts, and discrimination for their race and gender.
Despite their hardships, the SixTripleEight succeeded— processing over 17 million pieces of mail in England in only six months and moving on to France until after the war’s end.
Seventy-seven years later, they are finally receiving recognition for their historic achievements. In the summer of 2022, Romay was honored as the oldest surviving member of the 6888th. President Joe Biden has signed a bill authorizing the Congressional Gold Medal for the unit. And in March 2023, Romay received the first Lifetime Achievement Award at the 10th annual Women Who Shape the State event in Montgomery, Alabama.
After her service, Romay continued living life to the fullest. She married and began a 30-year career designing and creating garments, living in New York and New Jersey. She spent time learning about other cultures and traveling, with a trip to Egypt high on her list of favorite destinations. After leaving the fashion industry, Romay worked at a Winn-Dixie grocery store for 20 years, finally retiring in Alabama at age 100.
When Romay had the opportunity to think about what her Wish of a Lifetime would be, travel quickly came to mind. She told us she had always wanted to visit Jerusalem. When she was traveling in Egypt, she recalled being on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and her curiosity as her guide gestured “over there” to nearby Israel. Romay had also experienced great kindness from the Jewish community while living in New York and New Jersey.
When we heard Romay’s story, we jumped at the opportunity to recognize the incredible woman she is and to help her fulfill her wish. But, in line with her fascinating life, we thought Romay’s trip could be a new experience on multiple levels.
Romay visited Jerusalem through Virtual Reality! She was thrilled to explore a new place while using VR technology for the first time. Romay’s visit began with a Zoom video call with Jerusalem’s Minister of Tourism and the Director of the Tower of David Museum, who gave her a warm welcome to the famous holy city.
Once she put on her VR headset, Romay felt her mouth drop open with amazement. She was instantly transported to Jerusalem, wholly immersed in the historic city.
“I’m speechless; I am so excited!” she exclaimed. “My brain is going a mile a minute!”
Romay described the feeling of being there, moving with the crowd praying at the Western Wall, and walking through the Tower of David citadel courtyard.
“It was fabulous,” she said. “I never expected to have a feeling or sensation like I was there with the people. I even tried to touch the shirts of some of the people who were going to pray.”
After removing her VR headset, Romay commented that she had never used so much energy while sitting; she felt as tired as if she had been walking for hours.
After her wish, Romay shared that she was energized and inspired. She expressed her gratitude many times over.
“I was ecstatic but also almost halfway speechless,” she said of the experience. “I appreciate this. It has been a marvelous experience—absolutely out of this world for me. I am so inspired.”
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