America’s oldest WWII veteran celebrates 112th birthday

NEW ORLEANS — The nation’s oldest World II veteran keeps rolling along.

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Lawrence Brooks celebrated his 112th birthday on Sunday, advising people who asked about his secret for longevity to “serve God and be nice to people,” WDSU reported.

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans held a drive-by ceremony to honor Brooks’ birthday.

Brooks was visited earlier this week by Donald Remy, the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the television station reported. On Sunday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted his congratulations, wishing Brooks “a joyous birthday.”

Last year, Brooks waved from his porch in New Orleans while he was treated to a flyover as a squadron of World War II-era aircraft flew in formation. In 2019, he received cupcakes, a musical serenade and numerous kisses at the National World War II Museum.

Brooks was born Sept. 12, 1909, in Norwood, Louisiana, and served in the predominantly African-American 91st Engineer Battalion, according to a news release by the museum. Brooks’ unit was stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War II, according to Military Times. He was a private first class and was a servant to three white officers in his battalion, according to the museum.

Brooks originally was drafted by the Army in 1940, according to online military records. He endured basic training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi and was honorably discharged in November 1941, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

>> America’s oldest WWII veteran gets flyover for 111th birthday

He returned to the service after Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941.

While serving in the Pacific theater, Brooks was on a plane that was transferring wire from Australia to New Guinea when an engine failed, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported. Brooks said he had to work quickly to dispose of excess weight to make the plane light enough to continue its flight.

“There was the pilot, the co-pilot and me and just two parachutes. I told them, ‘If we have to jump, I’m going to grab one of them,’” Brooks said in an oral history for the National World War II Museum. Brooks’ battalion later transferred to the Philippines after the Japanese surrender in August 1945. He returned to the U.S. and was honorably discharged as a private first class.

After the war, Brooks returned to New Orleans and worked as a forklift operator until his retirement in 1979.

The centenarian has five children, five stepchildren, 13 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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