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Oldest dwelling WWII veteran Lawrence Brooks has died at age 112 : NPR

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World Struggle II veteran Lawrence Brooks, pictured holding a photograph of himself as a soldier in 1943, died on Wednesday at age 112.

Gerald Herbert/AP


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Gerald Herbert/AP

World Struggle II veteran Lawrence Brooks, pictured holding a photograph of himself as a soldier in 1943, died on Wednesday at age 112.

Gerald Herbert/AP

Lawrence Brooks, the oldest identified dwelling American veteran of World Struggle II, died early Wednesday morning, in accordance with the Nationwide World Struggle II Museum. He was 112.

“He was a beloved pal, a person of nice religion and had a delicate spirit that impressed these round him,” stated Stephen Watson, the museum’s president and chief govt. “He proudly served our nation throughout World Struggle II, and returned dwelling to serve his neighborhood and church. His kindness, smile and humorousness related him to generations of people that beloved and admired him.”

Brooks had been out and in of the native veterans’ hospital in New Orleans in latest months, and whereas nonetheless mentally sharp, his physique had grown weak, in accordance with the Related Press.

On the time of his most up-to-date birthday in September, his daughter Vanessa Brooks informed the AP, he had not too long ago undergone surgical procedure, suffered a fall, had a kidney an infection, and had misplaced a lot of his listening to and sight in a single eye, together with his imaginative and prescient fading within the different.

Lawrence Brooks, pictured in 2019, sports activities a lipstick kiss on his cheek, planted by a member of the singing group Victory Belles.

Gerald Herbert/AP


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Gerald Herbert/AP

Lawrence Brooks, pictured in 2019, sports activities a lipstick kiss on his cheek, planted by a member of the singing group Victory Belles.

Gerald Herbert/AP

Nonetheless, by all accounts, the supercentenarian maintained a sunny disposition all through a lot of his life and was a beloved determine in his neighborhood and around the globe.

His newest birthday celebration, on Sept. 12, included a drive-by parade because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a serenade by the Nationwide World Struggle II Museum’s singing trio, and a navy flyover of his New Orleans shotgun home.

From the American South to navy service in Australia and past

Born in 1909, Brooks was one in all 15 kids and was raised in rural Louisiana and Mississippi. He was drafted into the U.S. Military a number of weeks after the assault on Pearl Harbor at age 31 when the navy was nonetheless racially segregated.

“We had our tents, and the whites had their tents,” Brooks informed the Navy Instances. “They had been subsequent to one another, like subsequent door.”

Brooks spent his time throughout the warfare serving with the largely African American 91st Engineer Battalion, stationed in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines.

For a lot of that point, Brooks was a driver, valet and cook dinner for 3 officers, two lieutenants and a captain, the Military Instances reported. He additionally helped construct bridges, roads and airstrips. Finally he earned the rank of Personal 1st Class.

All through his service in Australia, Brooks loved a stage of freedom he’d by no means skilled earlier than, both within the navy or at dwelling. In interviews with the Nationwide World Struggle II Museum, he marveled over that nation’s acceptance of Black troopers, which had been a marked distinction to the racist Jim Crow legal guidelines of the south on the time.

“I used to be handled so significantly better in Australia than I used to be by my very own white folks. I puzzled about that,” he recalled.

Vanessa Brooks, pictured alongside her father on Sept. 8 — simply 4 days earlier than his most up-to-date birthday — was Brooks’ longtime main caregiver.

Kathleen Flynn/AP


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Kathleen Flynn/AP

Vanessa Brooks, pictured alongside her father on Sept. 8 — simply 4 days earlier than his most up-to-date birthday — was Brooks’ longtime main caregiver.

Kathleen Flynn/AP

Whereas he by no means confronted fight Brooks did expertise his share of terrifying moments.

“On one flight to choose up provides between Australia and New Guinea, an engine failed on Brooks’ aircraft whereas flying over the ocean,” the museum says. As troopers started throwing out cargo to compensate for the lack of energy, Brooks moved to face close to the cockpit, explaining that the pilots had been the one males on the aircraft with parachutes “and if he noticed them working by he was going to hold on as they went out the door.”

After Brooks was discharged in August 1945, he obtained married, had a household and labored as a forklift operator till retiring about 4 many years later. His spouse, Leona, died in November 2008.

A daughter strives to make sure her father’s achievements are preserved

His 61-year-old daughter Vanessa had been Brooks’ main caregiver for the final 13 years of his life. Along with the labor-intensive tasks of holding him bodily and mentally wholesome, she had additionally taken cost of changing a lot of Brooks’ navy awards and mementos, together with objects that had been misplaced within the floods following Hurricane Katrina.

In November she succeeded in getting an genuine replica World Struggle II uniform and a badge from his father’s previous unit, the Military Instances stories. He had additionally not too long ago acquired substitute medals and a certificates of appreciation for his service from his previous unit’s present commanding officer. However Vanessa Brooks remains to be engaged on changing her father’s good conduct medal.

“My father earned the Good Conduct Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and Presidential Unit Medal, then he was left behind,” his daughter stated in latest interviews discussing how Black GIs had been discriminated in opposition to after WWII.

“He served the identical 5 years. He was bombed and strafed within the South Pacific however was not supplied a low-interest financial institution mortgage, a lowered down cost for a home, or an training,” she added, recalling how a lot Brooks wished to go to highschool after the warfare.

Brooks is survived survived by 5 kids, 13 grandchildren, and 32 great-grandchildren. As he requested, he will likely be buried in his new uniform.

When requested the key to his longevity and long-lasting good well being, Brooks had a easy piece of recommendation: “Be good to folks.”

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