Lawrence Brooks of New Orleans has celebrated his last five birthdays at special events held for him at the National World War II Museum. But this year, for his 111th birthday, the museum had to come up with a different plan for his celebration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Saturday, the museum brought the party to Brooks. On the day he turned 111, he enjoyed the celebration from the safety of his front porch. Some of his family joined him for the festivities, including cake. Brooks has five children, five stepchildren, 12 grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren.
As in past years, The Victory Belles — the museum’s vocal trio — sang several songs for Brooks. Then, the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and the Big Easy Wing performed a military flyover, according to CNN.
As previously reported, the museum requested Americans from across the country to send birthday cards for a national card drive for Brooks. The museum, using its address, hoped to receive 500 to 1,000 birthday cards.
Americans rose to the request and almost 10,000 cards were received. On Saturday, a group of the museum’s staff delivered the cards to Brooks, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“It is such an honor to have the oldest living US 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,” said Amber Mitchell, assistant director of public engagement at the museum, said in a news release.
According to the museum, which is located in New Orleans, Brooks served in the predominantly African-American 91st Engineer Battalion that was stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines during World War II. He obtained the rank of Private 1st Class during the war, according to the museum.
In a spirited interview with the museum in 2014, he recounted a frightening brush with death when he was on board a C-47 cargo jet filled with barbed wire, when one of the plane’s motors went out. He had to throw as much of the wire out of the plane into the ocean as he could in order to lighten the load.
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