Lawrence Brooks is the oldest known veteran from World War II, and this past Sunday he celebrated his 112th birthday.
Brooks was raised near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in a family with 15 children. According to the National WWII Museum, Brooks was drafted in 1940 and served as a private in the predominately African American 91st Engineers Battalion in the Pacific Theater. The unit was responsible for building military infrastructure while stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines during the war.
Brooks doesn’t care to speak much about the war. “My mother and father always raised me to love people, and I don’t care what kind of people they are,” he said in a 2020 interview with National Geographic. “And you mean to tell me, I get up on these people and I got to go kill them? Oh, no, I don’t know how that’s going to work out.”
“I had some good times and I had some bad times,” Brooks said. “I just tried to put all the good ones and the bad ones together and tried to forget about all of them.”
This past Sunday was certainly a good time. Brooks celebrated his twelfth birthday over one hundred with a boisterous, dancing-filled party. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans hosted the event, which was held outside of Brooks’ New Orleans home and was attended by neighbors, veterans, and community members. The celebrations consisted of a Jeep parade, performances by local musicians and the museum’s vocal trio, and Brooks’ favorite chocolate cake. According to reports from the party, at one point Brooks even stood from his wheelchair and danced.
“He is a fixture here at the museum, but also in the community,” said Peter Crean, a vice president of the museum. “He is a wonderful human being who is inspiring to everyone he meets.”
He even received a congratulations from Louisiana Governor John Edwards. “Happy 112th birthday to Mr. Lawrence Brooks, America’s oldest living World War II veteran and a proud Louisianan,” Edwards tweeted on Sunday. “Mr. Brooks, the entire state of Louisiana thanks you for your service and we all wish you a joyous birthday.”
Brooks has five children, 13 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren, and he worked as a forklift driver up until his retirement in his 70s. He lost his wife, Leona B. Brooks, to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
They say wisdom comes with age, and Brooks offered up his advice for living a good life: “Serve God, and be nice to people.”