Country’s oldest WWII veteran celebrates 112th birthday

Lawrence Brooks, the country’s oldest World War II veteran, celebrated his 112th birthday on Sept. 12 in New Orleans.

Governor Jon Bel Edwards wished the veteran a happy birthday on his Facebook page.

"Mr. Brooks, the entire state of Louisiana thanks you for your service and we all wish you a joyous birthday," he posted.

According to the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, Brooks was born in 1909 in Norwood, Louisiana. In 1929, he then moved to New Orleans before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1940, where he was deployed with the 91st Engineers Battalion. He was a servant to three white officers and his daily routine included cleaning their sheets and uniforms and shining their shoes.

Brooks attained the rank of Private 1st Class during the war.

In an oral history about his service posted on YouTube, Brooks also described how he was delivering a load of barbed wire to the front when one of the engines of the C-47 he was traveling in went out.

After they dumped the barbed wire to conserve weight, he made his way to the cockpit. He told the pilot and co-pilot that since they were the only two with parachutes, if they had to jump for it, he was going to grab on to one of them.

"We made it though," he said laughing. "We had a big laugh about that."

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He later went on to marry and raise five children. He has 13 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren, according to the VA. 

Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Donald Remy and Medical Center Director Fernando Rivera visited Brooks for his birthday at the New Orleans Veterans Medical Center.

"It was an honor to meet Mr. Brooks, a personal hero of mine," Remy said. "His courage, kindness and generosity of spirit set an example we should all aspire to."

During their visit, Brooks shared stories from his life and advice he often gives to those who ask him his secret to longevity.

"Serve God and be nice to people," he said.

This year’s festivities included a Jeep parade, a live performance from the museum vocal trio and entertainment from New Orleans musicians. The city also recognized Brooks’ birthday with an official proclamation.

According to the National WWII Museum New Orleans, more than 325,000 World War II veterans are currently living with many of them residing in California and Florida. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.