A World War II veteran just celebrated his 100th birthday in Oklahoma, according to friends and family. Born in 1922, Bert Barnett enlisted in the service as a young flight engineer, eventually serving as a teacher at the Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls. Well-wishers of all ages came out to the Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center on Sunday to celebrate Barnett’s milestone birthday.
When asked about the secret to making it one hundred years, Barnett smiled and said, “just stay alive.”
The center’s recreation director, Marilyn Woods, said his sense of humor never fades even as he continues to age.
“He is extremely, extremely humorous, and has great charisma,” Woods said. “Bert is very awesome. He keeps you smiling, he keeps you laughing and he stays positive. At all times, he stays positive. That’s something that’s awesome, especially to be 100.”
Woods also said that it’s important to honor accomplishments like at the VA because so many veterans do not make it this long.
“It’s always important to celebrate those who were here before us,” Woods said. “We don’t know what their life was before us, before we got here, what they had to go through and every year is a celebration. Every day is a celebration, so to hit 100, that is huge.”
The WWII veteran touched many lives along the way
After World War II ended, Bert married the love of his life, Gussie, in 1947, and then settled in as a crop duster and cattle rancher. The VA said that many of his friends and family who couldn’t make the celebration contributed to a sweet video message for Barnett.
Cory Fikes, a neighbor who lived next to Bert and Gussie for many years, said he remembers the time spent together fondly. He also said that Bert and Gussie were like grandparents to his own children.
“We’d get in the backyard because we could hear the plane coming in and my wife and my two kids, we’d sit out there and just watch Bert come in and land on his runway or take off from his runway,” Fikes said. “That was pretty cool. Something you don’t see everyday.”
Fikes also said that Bert is in great condition for his age, and in even better spirits. “I think his dad maybe lived to be around 103, so he’s got some good genes, obviously, but just to come out and celebrate with him and to be a part of this, it’s an amazing story really for Bert,” he added.
Barnett moved into the VA center in 2017. Employees said his favorite activities are playing dominoes and bingo.
Historians estimate that around 240,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive in 2021.