The Spirit that Defines the Greatest Generation
Vivian C. “Millie” Bailey stood in attendance as the County Executive, Calvin Ball, cut the ribbon to open the Vivian C. “Millie” Bailey Neighborhood Square on a sunny, autumn day in Columbia, Maryland. The multi-use park is over 26,000 square feet and will serve as the location for the Howard County Veterans Monument, community gathering place and area for children to play. The three sections are intended to represent the three causes Bailey dedicated her life and legacy of service towards. As a 50-year resident of Columbia, Bailey was glad she could be in attendance. “It’s quite an honor, and I never had expected to receive an honor quite that prestigious,” Bailey told The Baltimore Sun, “I feel honored to have had that done for me in my name.”
Bailey enrolled in the United States Army in 1942 into the Women’s Army Corps. This group of brave patriots were the first women to serve in the Army, other than nurses, and operated from 1942 to 1978. Bailey was also one of the only two black women enrolled in the Adjutant General School in Fort Sam Houston in 1944. This proved to be the only time in her military service she operated in a nonsegregated environment. Bailey joined the military seeking opportunities that weren’t available in her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, she shared with The Baltimore Sun. In 1946, Bailey was honorably discharged from the Women’s Army Corps as a First Lieutenant. She then went on to work in Chicago for the Veterans Administration for 24 years. Around 1980, Bailey and her husband William set down roots to Howard County, Maryland.
As she settled into her new home in Howard County, Bailey began volunteering, donating, and fundraising for the Running Brook Elementary School, Howard County Community College, and Howard County General Hospital.
Most of the fundraising she does for Running Brooke Elementary goes towards providing students with access to field trips and hands-on educational opportunities. “I wanted to make sure the kids got field trips like they did in richer parts of the county,” she told The Baltimore Sun in another interview. During one of these field trips, she accompanied the students to the White House and met with sitting President Barack Obama and sitting Vice President Joe Biden. Remarkably, this was not her first time meeting a U.S. President, but it was her first time at the White House. During a memorial for her childhood friend and celebrated scholar, John Hope Frank, she spoke for quite some time with Former President Bill Clinton. She has yet to meet Former First Lady Michelle Obama, but they do communicate through letters.
“Ms. Millie has a spirit that defines the greatest generation of America,” Ball said as he opened the park. “It is my hope that as our community enjoys this new park for many, many years to come, we will always remember the spirit of service and courage of Ms. Millie.”
Although she left her formal military service in 1946, she never stopped giving back to the brave men and women of the armed forces. During the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, Bailey organized community efforts to send care packages to the deployed service members. For the past 17 years, she’s been packing boxes and soliciting donations to send hundreds of care packages overseas. Although she never had children, she treats her community and troops as part of her family. “We need to remind our troops as often as possible that we’re thinking of them, off in these remote places,” she told The Baltimore Sun in another interview.
“The day they say there’s not one soldier left over there I’ll stand up and say, ‘Hooray!'”
Bailey continues to live life to the fullest and recently went skydiving for the first time, at 102-years-old. What is her secret to living a long life? “I religiously try not to worry about anything I can’t do anything about,” she told DOD news. “If I can’t do anything about it, why fret over it?” After living such an impactful, meaningful life, her hope for the future is that it will be a place of equality and kindness. After being honored on her 100th birthday, she told WBFF reporters,