STATESBORO, Ga. — Walking around during her lunch break, a bright, blue-eyed, 23-year-old Annie Laura Bailey stopped to look at the bright red, white and blue poster of a white haired and bearded man with a tall hat pointing at her with the words, “I Want You,” written in red, insistent letters. The curly, styled, dark haired woman wanted to serve her country like her father did in World War I.
So, in 1943, Bailey joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, the women's branch of the U.S. Army where about 150,000 served between 1942-1978.
“I saw Uncle Sam in my daily life,” said Bailey. “It just felt like joining was the right thing to do.” At first, she was leery about joining, but was unable to get Uncle Sam out of her head and finally decided to join.
“After that, I didn’t have time to think too much because all of a sudden I was in Daytona Beach, Florida, where the WAAC were building up,” she said.
While stationed there, Bailey worked as a telephone signal operator for the WAAC. Bailey had already had familiarity with such systems from her civilian career as a telephone operator for Southern Bell Telephone Company.
“I was just one of those women who knew how to work the telephone, so it came naturally to me,” she said with a warm smile.
Seventy-eight years after joining WAAC, Bailey, now with white wispy hair, celebrated her 101st birthday on Feb. 27, 2022, in Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Statesboro, Georgia.
To thank Bailey for her service, the contributions she made to the nation and her achievements in the Army, several 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers attended the celebration.
“She has paved the way for us as women to live our dreams and serve our country,” said Lt. Col. Lindsey Elder, the 3rd Infantry Division’s public affairs officer. “It’s an honor to represent the 3rd ID and the Army with you today.”
Bailey was vibrant as she said she was thrilled and thankful for the new generation of Army women to have attended this huge milestone in her life.
After opening her gifts, Bailey met and talked with two female Signal Corps Soldiers from the 3rd ID. Bailey shared her experience as a signal Soldier and gave some sage advice to the new generation of female Soldiers.
“I really enjoyed meeting and conversing with Mrs. Bailey,” said Spc. Ahmrya Hollis, a Soldier assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 3rd ID. “Learning how the Army has transformed and grown was definitely an eye-opening experience.”
Women of every race, class and ethnic background have made historic contributions to the growth and strength of the U.S. Army in countless recorded and unrecorded ways and Mrs. Bailey is among those women.
"Communication and equipment that the U.S. Army Signal Corps creates and manages has changed over the years, but the commitment of Soldiers in any environment remains constant,” said Lt. Col. Danny Morrison, the officer-in-charge of the division G-6. “I am incredibly proud that our 3rd ID Signal Soldiers had the honor to meet with one of our veterans about how far we have come as an Army."