NEW ORLEANS – The Victory Belles sang Happy Birthday to Private First Class Lawrence Brooks Monday. Brooks, who was a member of the predominately African-American 91st Engineer Battalion in World War II, turned 107.
He said his military work included being a cook and servant to three white officers. He would do their laundry, shine their shoes and chauffer them around.
“One might say now, if you take this job of cooking, you can stay away from the firing line and that’s what I did the whole time I was in the Army,” he said with a laugh.
Born September 9, 1909, Brooks is one of the oldest surviving World War II veterans in the region. He served at a time when segregation was prominent in much of the country. He said he was proud and doesn’t quite understand the stance some current athletes are taking surrounding the national anthem.
Brooks said he appreciates the message the players are trying to send, but not the method being used.
‘Some of them won’t put their hand over their heart,” he said. “I noticed that. It ain’t right. It’s dishonoring them. Everybody should put their hands over their heart or salute or do something.”
Brooks’ daughter Vanessa said her father never imagined he would live to see the day when a black man was elected to the highest office in the land. She said she’s grateful for what her father did for the country and to God, for keeping her father with her all of these years.
“He’s my life line. He gives me a reason to wake up every morning with a smile,” Vanessa said. “It’s a blessing. It’s an awesome, amazing day.”
Brooks, by the way, said his secret to a long life is in taking good care of himself, including exercising and eating right.
(© 2016 WWL)