Irma "Pete" Cameron Dryden was stationed at Tuskegee Army Airfield station hospital in the 1940s while the pilot cadets were in training

By Joelle Goldstein
May 29, 2020 07:05 PM
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Second Lt. Irma Cameron Dryden
11Alive

Happy birthday, Second Lt. Irma "Pete" Cameron Dryden!

Irma, who is the only living Tuskegee Airmen nurse, celebrated her 100th birthday on Thursday, according to NBC affiliate WXIA.

The centenarian marked the milestone with a socially distant gathering on her front lawn, complete with signs, American flags, balloons, flowers and a cake, the outlet reported.

"She has had a monumental impact on people and not even know that she did," a spokesperson for the National Association of Black Military Women (NABMW) Atlanta Chapter, of which Irma is a member, told WXIA.

Born in New York City to a dental technician father and a teacher mother, Irma graduated from Harlem Hospital School of Nursing in 1942 before moving to Alabama to join the military service a year later, according to the NABMW.

There, she worked as a medical nurse and cared for the airmen who were training to serve in the war.

In a tweet from the Tuskegee Army Nurses, the group explained how Irma was "stationed at Tuskegee Army Airfield station hospital in the 1940s when the pilot cadets were in training during World War II."

She remained in the service until 1944, according to the NABMW. However, prior to her exit, Irma met and fell in love with Tuskegee airman Charles Dryden.

The pair married on November 16, 1943, with their love story eventually being detailed in Tom Brokaw's book, An Album of Memories: Personal Histories from the Greatest Generation, as well as Charles' memoir, A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman.

A spokesperson for the Tuskegee Nurses Project told WXIA that Irma said "she and Charles ... participated in the first military wedding at Tuskegee."

Years later, the couple called it quits and got divorced, the spokesperson told the outlet.

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In 2014, Irma was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for her service, according to WXIA.

She continues to be honored for her contributions today, including during Thursday's celebration, which several partygoers and individuals expressed their thanks while Irma safely watched on from her living room window, the outlet reported.

"Thank you so much for all that you've done," John W McCaskill with History Alive said in a video. "We stand a little taller today because we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us."