Marion VA celebrates 102-year-old WWII veteran - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Marion VA celebrates 102-year-old WWII veteran

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MARION, IL (KFVS) -

Veterans Day won’t be the only thing one World War II veteran will be celebrating this week.

Gilbert Ledbetter also has a birthday coming up, 102 years old, and the Marion VA Medical Center honored him on Tuesday.

Ledbetter enlisted in the Merchant Marines during World War II.

On board, he served as a cook and a crew; and said serving for his country is a feeling he will always remember.

“Veteran….I tell ya …it was the most important time of my life,” Ledbetter said.

Veterans and new friends come to shake the WWII veteran’s hand.

Ledbetter will be 102 this Friday, and friends say he’s still as sharp as ever.

Gilbert’s son, Stephen, said if he had to describe his dad in one word, it would be "awesome."

“I’ve said many times that if I can be half the man that my father is, I will consider myself to have been a success," Stephen said.

Stephen said his father was proud to do his part as a Merchant Marine.

"Those four years that he served were the most gratifying years of his life," Stephen said. "He was just proud to be able to be there and do his little part. He actually got back a year after the war was over."

When it comes to his health, Ledbetter said the only place he feels pain is his leg from time to time.

Led better said he’s been around the world and is proud that he served his country.

“I’m proud,” he said.

He said it has brought him great honor.

And although 102 years old is just around the corner, age will not keep him doing the things that he loves to do, like singing.

“Lord, I want to be in that number….oh when the saints go marching in," as he sang with a smile.

Stephen said if there is one thing he wants people to know about his dad, Gilbert, is that he was one of the happiest people he's ever met.

"He was the finest all around man that I've ever known, and that I think I would believe that even if he wasn't my father," he said.

Stephen said to celebrate Veterans Day, he and his father usually spend the day watching the military channel, with Gilbert sharing his story about WWII.

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