White spent 30 years of active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps and received a Purple Heart in 1946 for surviving the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 when he was stationed in Japan.
Retired WWII U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Major Bill White, just celebrated a major milestone in his life. The centenarian, who made headlines earlier this year after putting out a call for Valentine's Day cards, celebrated his 105th birthday on Friday. Dressed in his US Marine Corps dress blues, White watched from under a canopy as loved ones, well-wishers, and fellow residents of his Stockton assisted living facility took part in a special drive-by birthday salute. At 105, he is believed to be the oldest living Marine, and when asked how he felt about turning a year older, he told CBS13: "Feels just as good as it did at 104."
According to Good Morning America, White spent 30 years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and received a Purple Heart in 1946 for surviving the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 when he was stationed in Japan. He started a family after returning to the United States and worked as a police officer. "He was in Shanghai before WWII and the Japanese invasion and all that, Iwo Jima got hit. Blown up with a grenade. Recovered from that. Spent a total of 30 years in the Marine Corps. Just an amazing guy," said Tony Walker, communications director for The Oaks at Inglewood, where White resides.
Although White's family couldn't attend the birthday celebrations due to the pandemic, they were touched by the love and fanfare for the veteran outside the facility on Friday. "It’s very heartwarming and very and it just — it does get to you that there are so many people that love him and appreciate him for his service," his daughter Mary Huston said. As for White, he wholeheartedly embraced the birthday milestone and is already looking forward to the next big celebration.
"Right now I'm trying for 106," he said. "One at a time." When asked about the secret to his longevity, White previously told KTXL that the key was to just keep breathing. "I can't think of anything else. I can give you all sorts of ideas and suggestions but if you're not breathing, they don't mean anything," he said. He also credits reading for keeping his mind sharp. The veteran won hearts across the world earlier this year after he launched "Operation Valentine" in January with a call for Valentine's Day cards from strangers all over the globe. The movement quickly went viral on social media, eventually bringing in over 300,000 cards and gifts in his name.
"The gifts include handmade quilts, blankets, artwork, cups, mugs, military memorabilia, challenge coins, hats, T-shirts, candy, scrapbook items, a custom-made walker with military colors," said Diane Wright, executive director of The Oaks at Inglewood. "The list goes on and on. And mail is still coming." One card read: Dear Major Bill White... Thank you for your service to our country we are proud of your accomplishments and love of country. You are amazing and an inspiration to our Marine who is currently serving.
White said at the time that he hopes to save all the cards he receives so they can be a part of his history. Having been a scrapbooking aficionado all his life, he organizes his memories and milestones into binders every year without fail. "This started way back," said White. "My mother, parents taught me to conserve and observe memories as much as possible." Besides scrapbooking, the inspiring centenarian also enjoys walking around the community and playing bingo and cards to keep busy. He's also often visited at the facility by friends from the Marines and despite having retired years ago, is still ever so ready to jump back into duty if his nation needs him. "They could call me back if they needed me for something," he said.