Lawrence Brooks, the oldest American World War II veteran still breathing, turned a hearty 111 on Saturday.
The National WWII Museum, which is located in New Orleans near Brooks’ home, organized a party in front of his porch around 10 a.m. The museum’s vocal trio regaled Brooks with a singing of “Happy Birthday” and a military flyover streaked across the Louisiana sky.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper celebrated the bespectacled centenarian too. “I salute your service and your lifetime of determination,” Esper tweeted.
Almost 10,000 birthday cards poured in for Brooks as part of a national card drive, according to the National WWII Museum.
Brooks, who is Black and served in the predominantly African American 91st Engineer Battalion, has said he takes pride in his service but has complicated emotions about his time in the army.
“I was treated so much better in Australia than I was by my own white people,” Brooks told National Geographic. “I wondered about that.”
During the Second World War, he cooked and cleaned and shined shoes in the Pacific Theater, attaining the rank of Private 1st Class.
He is the father of 5 children; his wife, Leona, died in 2005.
Brooks offered simple life advice when he was 110.
“Serve God,” he told National Geographic, “and be nice to people.”
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