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Lessons from a World War II Veteran on Longevity and Life

President Obama and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett meet with Alyce Dixon, the oldest-known living female African American veteran of World War II.

Alyce Dixon, the oldest-known living female African American veteran of World War II, visited the Oval Office yesterday to meet President Obama and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.

One of the first African American women in the U.S. Army, Alyce served with the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion during World War II. Alyce had the onerous job of going through stacks of undelivered mail stored in warehouses in Britain and in France, and designing a system to help ensure that the men on the front lines received their mail.

In Iraq, there were a few things that kept me and my guys smiling in the sweltering 100-degree heat. Eighteen hours on and six off, we all looked forward to that little precious time before hitting the rack to read your mail. In the early days of the war, internet access, particularly at the outposts, was rare to non-existent -- all we had were letters. Sometimes it took two weeks to a month for a letter to get to us, so I can only imagine how important Alyce’s job was to the men and women of World War II, who waited a half a year or more at times to receive that needed lift in spirit, and little piece of home.

After eliminating the backlog of mail in Great Britain, the mighty 6888th was deployed to France, where they were given six months to accomplish their mission. They got the job done in three. After she completed her mission overseas, Alyce returned to Washington, D.C. and worked another 35 years until retirement.

When the President asked her yesterday what the secret to her energy and youth was, she said “caring and sharing, sharing and caring.”

Alyce, who still lives in Washington, D.C., is cared for by the Department of Veterans Affairs at the District of Columbia VA Medical Center, Community Living Center.

Koby Langley is the Director of Veteran, Wounded Warrior, and Military Family Engagement at the White House.