Lawrence Brooks was born in 1909 and obtained the rank of Private 1st Class during the war. He celebrated his 111th birthday with the National WWII Museum.
Lawrence Brooks from New Orleans is the oldest known United States veteran of World War II. He marked his 111th birthday on September 12 with a socially-distanced celebration organized by the National WWII Museum. The museum's vocal trio The Victory Belles sang some tunes for him outside his home. Meanwhile, the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and the Big Easy Wing performed a military flyover for him. The museum has celebrated his birthday every year for the past five years, but things were changed around a little bit this year owing to the ongoing pandemic, CNN reports.
Happy 111th Birthday to Mr. Lawrence Brooks of New Orleans, LA! While we weren't able to have our usual birthday party at the Museum this year, we were able to host a socially distanced celebration that he could view safely from his porch. pic.twitter.com/DyzyWc0oCw— National WWII Museum (@WWIImuseum) September 12, 2020
Previously, the National WWII Museum hosted a national card drive for Brooks. They looked to collect an estimated 500 to 1,000 birthday cards; they ultimately received close to 10,000 cards. The veteran had a great time, but the museum was equally grateful to celebrate with the 111-year-old. Amber Mitchell, assistant director of public engagement, stated in a news release, "It is such an honor to have the oldest living US veteran of World War II living so close to our institution, and it was meaningful for us to continue to celebrate Lawrence Brooks and his incredible life in a safe manner this year."
The nation's oldest living WWII veteran, Lawrence Brooks, turns 111 years young today!— WWP (@wwp) September 12, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic forced his birthday party at the National World War II museum to be canceled, so now the museum is asking America to help make his day special ➡️ https://t.co/qMFIpvn6IE pic.twitter.com/cngz1vTDMi
Brooks was born in 1909 and obtained the rank of Private 1st Class during the war, the museum reported. He served in the 91st Engineer Battalion, which was known for being predominantly filled with other African Americans. The 91st Engineer Battalion was first stationed in New Guinea before being moved to the Philippines during World War II. In an interview with the museum from 2014, Brooks recalled a "terrifying brush with death." It took place when he was onboard a C-47 cargo jet. It was filled with barbed wire. One of the plane's motors went out and, in order to lighten the load, he had to throw out as much of the barbed wire as he could.
Big thanks to the Commemorative Air Force - Big Easy Wing and Honda Aeroshell Teams for helping us celebrate Lawrence Brooks' 111th birthday with a flyover in honor of Mr. Brooks! pic.twitter.com/Ro2rygerNA— National WWII Museum (@WWIImuseum) September 12, 2020
In a tweet, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wished Brooks a happy birthday. He posted, "I salute your service and your lifetime of determination." CBS News reporter Norah O'Donnell too wished him a happy birthday and reminded everyone of his secret to a long and happy life: "Serve God and be nice to people." That sounds like some really good advice at a time when the world needs kindness more than ever. The war veteran is survived by five children, five stepchildren, 12 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren.