Oldest-Living US World War II Veteran Celebrates 112th Birthday In this Sept. 12, 2019 file photo, World War II veteran Lawrence Brooks celebrates his 110th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. (Gerald Herbert/AP)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Thursday, 16 September 2021 07:42 AM
Lawrence Brooks, America's oldest living World War II veteran, this week celebrated his 112th birthday while being honored with a vehicle parade and a party outside his home in New Orleans.
Brooks told New Orleans NBC affiliate WDSU, which reports that the veteran waved to the crowd gathered at his house on Sunday, that his advice to others is to "serve God and be nice to people."
His party not only included the parade, but two brass bands, songs from a vocal trio, the Victory Belles of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and a chocolate cake, reports The Washington Post. At one point, Brooks stood up from his wheelchair and danced.
He also got a birthday wish from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who tweeted: "Happy 112th birthday to Mr. Lawrence Brooks, America’s oldest living World War II veteran and a proud Louisianan." The tweet also featured a photo of them together.
Brooks was born in Norwood, Louisiana, in 1909 and was one of his family's 15 children. He was drafted in 1940 to the U.S. Army and served through 1945 in the predominantly Black 91st Engineer Battalion. He was stationed in New Guinea and the Phillippines, rising to the rank of private first class during his service.
After the war, Brooks returned home and worked operating a forklift, retiring in his 70s. He and his wife had five children, 13 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren.
His daughter, Vanessa Brooks, commented that her father is blind in his right eye and losing his vision in his left, but his hearing is still good and he is healthy, having never suffered from a major illness other than low blood pressure and dehydration.
"We like to tell him, ‘Mr. Brooks, as long as you keep having birthdays, we’re going to keep throwing your birthday party,’" Peter Crean, a vice president at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told The Post.
The museum has thrown Brooks a party each year for the past eight years.
"He is a fixture here at the museum, but also in the community," Crean said. "He is a wonderful human being who is inspiring to everyone he meets … Mr. Brooks represents a generation that saved the world that we know. He was one of 16 million Americans who did his part for his country and the world to make it a better place. He is important to this museum, this city, and he is also important to our country."
Last year, the museum had to change Brooks' traditional birthday party because of the pandemic, and instead organized a vehicle parade outside the home he shares with his daughter. It also organized a birthday card drive, bringing in more than 21,000 notes from around the world.
This was the first year Brooks used a wheelchair, as in past years he used a cane, notes The Post.
"He’s beginning to slow down," said Crean. Brooks stayed in the Veteran Affairs Hospital during Hurricane Ida to ensure he wouldn't have to be without air conditioning or electrical power, he added, but "he is in remarkably good shape for 112. He is vibrant."