More than 16 million American men and women served in World War II. Today there are only about 240,000 remaining.
What brings that to mind is that this week the oldest surviving WWII veteran died. Lawrence N. Brooks, who served in the U.S. Army during the war, was 112 years old when he died Wednesday. Not only the oldest veteran, he was believed to be the oldest living man in the U.S. just three years younger than Thelma Sutcliffe of Omaha, Neb., who turned 115 on Oct. 1, 2021.
Brooks served in the mostly Black 91st Engineer General Service Regiment and was stationed in Australia. He was assigned as a caretaker to three white officers, cooking for them, driving for them and taking care of their clothes. It was the kind of discrimination tha seems mind-boggling today, but Brooks never talked about the treatment he received in the service, or growing up in the Jim Crow Deep South. He told friends thinking about it might make him angry, and he didn’t want that.
“I don’t have no hard feelings toward nobody,” he said during a 2014 oral history interview with the National World War II Museum. “I just want everything to be lovely, to come out right. I want people to have fun and enjoy themselves — be happy and not sad.”
That is an attitude we could all use today. No hard feelings, being happy and not sad.
Let us salute one of the great ones from “The Greatest Generation.” Lawrence N. Brooks, you could teach us all a lot.