Mother of five Emma Didlake joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in 1943

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
Updated July 17, 2015 04:20 PM
Credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

Emma Didlake was a 38-year-old wife and mother of five children when she felt the call to service in 1943 as the country was in the midst of World War II.

Now, more than 70 years later, President Barack Obama has honored her for her service, recognizing her distinction as the country’s oldest living veteran at 110.

Meeting Didlake, who served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, is a “great reminder not only of the sacrifices the Greatest Generation made” but also of the “trailblazing” done by women veterans and African-American veterans who helped to integrate the military, Obama said as he sat next to Didlake Friday in the Oval Office.

“We are very, very proud of them; that’s why we have to make sure we do right by them,” the president said.

Didlake, who was born in 1905 and resides in Detroit, looked regal as she sat in her wheelchair beside the Commander-in-Chief wearing a patriotic scarf and military hat.

According to the White House, her distinctions include the Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, American Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal. She held the rank of private and served stateside for about seven months as a driver, according to the Associated Press.

She traveled to Washington, D.C., with the aid of the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit dedicated to providing veterans with honor and closure. Her granddaughter and caretaker, Marilyn Horne, accompanied her on the trip.

If Didlake felt any nerves about meeting the president in front of the media, Obama made sure to set her at ease.

As the press corps swarmed, Obama was reportedly overheard telling Didlake: “Don’t worry about these folks.”