Meet Mr. Brooks
Since I know you all have been waiting with anticipation for my next post, (JK!) I want to tell you a short, but true story I read today in the AP News.
The oldest WWII veteran in the U.S. has passed away at the unbelievable age of 112! Mr. Lawrence N. Brooks was also possibly the oldest man in the country. His daughter confirmed his passing yesterday through the National WWII Museum.
Although most African Americans serving in the U.S. armed forces at the start of WWII were relegated to service duties and assigned to noncombat units, Mr. Brooks held no disdain at the outright racism and was actually known for his sense of humor, positivity, and kindness. His secret to such a long life?? “Serving God and being nice to people.” You can’t get more positive than that!!
One of 15 children, Mr. Brooks was living in New Orleans, passionate about the Saints football team and never missed a game. He was born in Norwood, Louisiana but moved to the state of Mississippi when he was an infant.
As for missing his opportunity to serve in combat, he says he got lucky with his job and figures if he wasn’t getting shot at or having to shoot at someone, he was ok with that. His actual position was a caretaker for three officers. His job was to cook, drive, and take care of their clothes, even though the unit he served at, the 91st, was an Army unit that built bridges, roads and airstrips for planes.
The officers treated him well and he considered himself lucky -however- he did notice how much better he was treated as an African American in Australia than in the U.S.
He also credits his daughter for taking such good care of him in his later years. He was a member of St Luke’s Episcopal church and never missed a service before the pandemic hit. He and his daughter shared a double shotgun house after hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in 2005 and he lost his wife. He had to be rescued from his roof in his 90’s, which caused his daughter to describe him as “resilient”.
I’ll say! That tough guy also worked as a forklift driver until he retired in his 60’s. And, despite not being in combat, the report said he did experience enemy fire when the Japanese bombed Owen Island where he worked! He was quoted as saying, “We’d be running like crazy, trying to hide.” They had to dig foxholes to protect themselves he said. They also learned to tell the difference between the sounds of German, American, and Japanese planes approaching.
I’m glad to learn about this wonderful man and his service. It is right that he was honored by the WWII museum who also organized a parade in front of his house with brass bands and Krewe of Zulu warriors in full regalia. The president of education and access at the museum, Col. Pete Crean said even at 112, Mr. Brooks stood up and danced for a little bit. Such a sweet story!