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Oldest Living WWII Veteran Celebrates His 112th Birthday with Drive-By Party in New Orleans
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Oldest Living WWII Veteran Celebrates His 112th Birthday with Drive-By Party in New Orleans

By Greta Bjornson

The nation's oldest living WWII veteran is celebrating another milestone birthday. Lawrence Brooks turned 112 on Sunday, marking the happy occasion with a drive-by party outside his New Orleans home, Fox 61 reports. The National World War Two Museum threw the celebration, which featured a performance by The Victory Belles, Brooks favorite musical trio. "If you ask Mr. Brooks, 'Why have you lived so long?,' He says his motto is, be good to people," Peter Crean, Vice President of Education and Access at the National WWII Museum, told the outlet. Crean added, "He is the oldest veteran in the United States, so he represents an entire generation."

Brooks was born in Norwood, Louisiana, in 1909. He was drafted into the Army in 1940 and was honorably discharged the following November, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. However, he was called back into service after the bombing of Pearl Harbor a month later. As a member of the 91st Engineer Battalion, a primarily African American battalion, Brooks helped build roads and bridges for the Allies and worked in mapmaking. In 1942, he and his battalion were even sent to Australia, where they worked in construction.

Brooks was never directly involved in combat, but looked back on one of his more dangerous situations in an oral history for the National World War II museum, reflecting on the day his C-47 cargo plane's engine failed while he was transporting wire from Australia to New Guinea. Brooks said he had to work to make the plane light enough so that it could fly again.  "There was the pilot, the co-pilot and me and just two parachutes. I told them, 'If we have to jump, I'm going to grab one of them,' " he said.  When he returned home from the war in 1945 after being honorably discharged as a private first class, Brooks settled back in New Orleans, where he worked as a forklift operator until 1979, when he retired, per the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Brooks is a father of five children and five stepchildren. Additionally, he has 13 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards posted a photo of himself and Brooks in honor of the big day. "Happy 112th birthday to Mr. Lawrence Brooks, America's oldest living World War II veteran and a proud Louisianan," Edwards wrote on Twitter. "Mr. Brooks, the entire state of Louisiana thanks you for your service and we all wish you a joyous birthday." Brooks' latest birthday celebration came after the WWII vet rang in his 111th birthday last year in a socially distanced fashion, when a squadron of World War II-era aircrafts flew in formation above his New Orleans home, according to WPXI. In 2019, he was thrown a party at the National World War II Museum, where he was serenaded and treated to cupcakes.

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