New Orleans, Louisiana – Lawrence Brooks turned 111 on Saturday, becoming the oldest known WWII veteran. His big day was celebrated with military fly-overs and a party by the National WWII Museum. Socially distanced of course. Thanks to a public campaign by the Museum, Brooks also received 10,000 birthday cards for the occasion.
Happy 111th birthday to our oldest living WW2 veteran, Lawrence Brooks. I salute your service and your lifetime of determination. pic.twitter.com/09a37yv6Yv
— Archive: Dr. Mark T. Esper (@EsperDoD) September 12, 2020
The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and The Big Easy Wing conducted the flyovers.
“It is such an honor to have the oldest living U.S. 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. As we continue to lose members of The Greatest Generation, it is so important that we honor these men and women for their bravery and sacrifice while they are with us.”Amber Mitchell, National WWII Museum
Brooks was part of the 91st Engineer Battalion, which was predominantly Black. He served in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines during the war (The Hill).
Like those who earned the title “oldest living WWII veteran” before him, Mr. Brooks seemed to enjoy the party. The Victory Belles singing group from the Museum sang Happy Birthday and a few other numbers to him from outside his gate. The Museum has held the birthday celebrations for him for the last 5 years. This year’s party had to deal with COVID-19 restrictions, but seemed to go off well.
In a 2014 interview with the museum, he recounted a moment when a C-47 cargo jet he was in experienced engine failure, requiring him to dispose of as much the cargo as possible. The cargo was barbed wire.
Private 1st Class Lawrence Brooks is dserving of honor.
After the war, Lawrence sent back to New Orleans and became a forklift operator. But tragedy struck in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina. Shortly after he and his wife were evacuated from his home, his wife Leona died.
“Hurricane Katrina took everything I owned, washed away everything.” Lawrence Brooks
There are only about 300,000 WWII veterans living at this time. Those like Mr. Brooks, who were Black Americans experienced a great deal of discimination during their military service. He decided sometime back that anger wasn’t helping him. His advice for a good life?
“Serve God and be nice to people.”
If only more people understood that principle.
Featured photo: Reddit composite of National WWII Museum photographs