On Sunday, actor and veterans advocate Gary Sinise honored Lawrence Brooks, a U.S. Army veteran who last month turned 111-years-old. Brooks, an African American, is America’s oldest living military veteran.
Brooks’ September birthday was initially celebrated with a military flyover, but Sinise also reached out to Brooks to share a personal message with the veteran. The Gary Sinise Foundation combined Sinise’s video message with footage from his birthday celebrations and an interview with a young Navy veteran neighbor who had the chance to meet Brooks.
On Sunday, the Gary Sinise Foundation tweeted, “We are thrilled to honor Lawrence Brooks who recently celebrated his 111th birthday, becoming America’s oldest living WWII veteran. Lawrence served from 1940-1945 with the 91st Engineer Battalion, in both New Guinea and the Philippines.”
We are thrilled to honor Lawrence Brooks who recently celebrated his 111th birthday, becoming America’s oldest living WWII veteran. Lawrence served from 1940-1945 with the 91st Engineer Battalion, in both New Guinea and the Philippines. pic.twitter.com/adN8Ed2Zw7
— GarySiniseFoundation (@GarySiniseFound) October 18, 2020
“What an incredible journey you have had in your life, and you’re still out there giving,” Sinise said.
Sinise’s comments were interspersed with interview comments from Aveja Garrison, Brooks’ neighbor, who said once he learned Brooks is a 111-year-old veteran “it touched me in a special place, because as you can see, I also myself went into the Navy … to fight for this country.”
Garrison held up a framed photo of himself in his Navy uniform, and Garrison was shown in the video meeting and talking with Brooks during his birthday celebration.
“Finding out that this guy’s my neighbor, I have to be there to chill with this guy today and get to see them,” Garrison said, “because there’s nothing like when you talk to an older person and find out their experiences man, it’s life lessons that you can’t get anywhere else. So it’s just a blessing to know Mr. Brooks now.”
Sinise noted Brooks’ experience serving as an African American in the U.S. military while it was still segregated.
“I know the secret to your longevity is getting rid of hate, holding a lot of love in your heart, that’s always been inspirational to me to hear,” Sinise said.
Brooks said, “I love people, not a white man or Japanese or German — people. God made all of us.”
The video also shows members of the AeroShell aerobatic team, presenting Brooks with a signed photo of their planes in flight, on behalf of the Gary Sinise Foundation, the WWII Museum Commemorative Air Force and the AeroShell aerobatics team.
The National WWII Museum also organized a drive that gathered 10,000 birthday cards to send to Brooks for his birthday.
The Gary Sinise Foundation was organized to support veterans and their families and has taken on a number of veteran causes over the years. In December of 2019, the foundation organized a Disney World getaway for 1,700 “Gold Star” family members of fallen U.S. service members.