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Woman deemed oldest US veteran set for flight to meet Obama

Published:Thursday | July 16, 2015 | 1:43 PM
In this photo taken on April 28, 2013, 108 year-old Emma Didlake, right, speaks as her daughter holds the microphone after Didlake was given the James Weldon Johnson lifetime achievement award at Detroit NAACP's 58th annual Freedom Fund Dinner at the Cobo Center in Detroit.


A 110-year-old woman believed to be the nation's oldest veteran is preparing to visit Washington on an honorary trip that includes meeting President Barack Obama. There's just one glitch: She wants a jacket to wear with her official trip T-shirt, because she doesn't have "Michelle Obama arms".

Emma Didlake, a long-time Detroit resident and veteran of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) during World War II, is scheduled to leave today. The visit is being arranged by Talons Out Honor Flight, a southwest Michigan chapter of a national non-profit that provides free, one-day trips for veterans to visit Washington's monuments and memorials.

Didlake is especially excited to see the memorial honouring her other favourite president, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Her service

Known to family as 'Big Mama', Didlake was a 38-year-old wife and mother of five when she "wanted to do something different" and signed up for the WAAC in 1943, said her granddaughter, Marilyn Horne. She served stateside for about seven months during the war, as a private and driver.

Horne said her grandmother, a licensed hairdresser born in Boligee, Alabama, in 1905, is losing her vision and hearing, but "her mind is excellent".

So is her sense of humor.

Horne said that when Talons Out officials presented her grandmother with a short-sleeved shirt bearing the group's logo to wear on the trip, Didlake took a look and said: "I don't have Michelle Obama arms - I'm going to need a jacket."