President Obama welcomed the nation’s oldest known veteran to the White House -– hosting the barrier-breaking 110-year Emma Didlake in the Oval Office Friday afternoon.
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The president lauded Didlake, an African American World War II veteran, for her service, saying she “served with distinction and honor.”
“We are so grateful that she is here with us today, and it’s a great reminder of not only the sacrifices that a greater generation made on our behalf but also the kind of trail blazing that our women veterans made, African American veterans who helped to integrate our Armed Services,” the president said. “We are very, very proud of them so that’s why we’ve got to make sure we do right by them.”
One of 15 children, Didlake was born in Boligee, Alabama in 1905 and later moved to Lynch, Kentucky with her family.
She married in 1922 and had five children. In 1943, she took a barrier-breaking step –- joining the Army, at a time most women stayed at home, and defying widespread racism and segregation.
Didlake traveled around the world and was decorated for her service. Her decorations include the Women's Army Corps Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.
After the war, she joined the NAACP and later marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in Detroit.
In a recent newspaper interview, Didlake attributed her great health to eating fruits and vegetables and not much meat. Each evening she soaks nine golden raisins in a pint of gin and lets them sit overnight; she eats them the next afternoon.
Didlake is visiting Washington, D.C. for the first time on her Honor Flight, provided by the Honor Flight Network. In addition to her stop at the White House, she is visiting the WWII Memorial and the FDR memorial (FDR was her favorite president). The group is also surprising her with a stop at the MLK Memorial.