Louisiana’s Lawrence Brooks, aged 112, smiled as his daughter, Vanessa, tenderly placed his new garrison cap on his head in the ICU bed. She says it’s what her father, the world’s oldest living World War II veteran, wanted most — a new Army uniform to replace the original he’d lost 16 years ago in Hurricane Katrina.
Brooks was presented with an authentic reproduction WWII uniform and his old unit’s badge during a recent short stay in the New Orleans VA hospital at the beginning of November. Brooks’ health is declining rapidly and he is adamant about spending his remaining days at his home with family. God-willing, he says he plans to wear his khakis this Veterans Day.null
“This is it,” said Brooks. “This is the uniform I wore in Australia.”
Brooks immediately recognized the components of the summer service uniform he wore while serving in the Pacific theater. He was back at his house in New Orleans on Nov. 4, smiling and fondling his cap before placing it on his head. He also held the insignia from the 91st Engineer Battalion, the predominantly African American unit in which Brooks served in Australia, Papua, and the Philippines.
Brooks says he has never forgotten his unit’s motto, and repeats it aloud, “acts, not words.” For historians, the battalion was re-designated the 91st Engineer General Service Regiment late in the summer of 1942. According to Richard W. Stewart, the army’s former chief of military history, the battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for service in Papua and the Meritorious Unit Commendation in the Asiatic-Pacific theater.