One of the voices that has received very little attention concerning the Vietnam era is the collective voice of African American military officers’ wives. To the officers who were married to these women they were the backbone of the family, because in most cases they took care of all the domestic duties while their husbands focused on their military career. On the surface their part may seem unremarkable, but in the context of what the country was experiencing during the Civil Rights movement they dealt with issues such as overt racial tension they could rarely escape, segregated schools and housing, and the rigors of being married to a man in uniform. This chapter will examine the important role these women played and the memories they had of the 1950s and the Vietnam era. Prior to the Vietnam era the military did very little to extend wives added benefits or family support systems. However, during fall of 1963, the Army’s Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff Personnel (ODCSPER) created the foundation for a Family Assistance program that had grand ambitions of becoming an Army-wide community social service system. This effort was led by DCSPER, Lieutenant General James L. Richardson and Lieutenant Colonel Emma Marie Baird (today known as the mother of the Army Community Service). On July

for his statements such as “The Army Means People,” announced the establishment of the Army Community Service (ACS) and its mission to support soldiers’ “Families who were experiencing problems that they couldn’t handle alone.”2 ACSs in the mid 1960s were not acutely aware of African American soldiers’ and their families’ distinct challenges based on color. Put simply, black service members’ issues were for the most part invisible or “beside the point” to these entities. Regardless of color, through the 1960s Army wives were seen as a silent appendage to their husbands and for the most part had few options, unlike the support spouses receive in today’s military Family Readiness Groups (FRG), which provides emotional support, information, “and shared labor for daily tasks.”3