‘Me and Moses went to kindergarten’: WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday with jokes and stories

LANSING, Mich. (WILX/Gray News) – A World War II veteran in Michigan is celebrating his milestone birthday of 100 years old.

Known for his jokes, Willis Rockwood is celebrating an astounding 10 decades of life with good humor.

“I always joke that me and Moses went to kindergarten,” he told WILX. “There was no such thing as kindergarten then.”

Although he said he’s feeling the effects of those years, Rockwood is thankful for the lifetime he has had.

“I’m grateful for the way that things had turned out over the years,” said Rockwood. “Of course, all that time you’re getting older.”

Rockwood served in the United States Army in World War II. He said he was drafted and went to war for three years.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 167,284 of the 16 million Americans who served in the World War ll are alive as of 2022.

For 37 months, Willis served on the frontlines in Europe traveling to Germany, Austria and more and experiencing both triumphs and terrors.

Rockwood’s son, Craig, said his father now shares his stories with anyone willing to listen.

“My dad has endured a lot of things when he was in the service and he never talked about them for the longest time up until recently,” Rockwood said.

Some of Willis Rockwood’s stories involve the moments leading up to the end of the war.

“About a day or two after we got out to sea, over the loudspeakers they announced that the air force dropped the two atom bombs on Japan,” Willis Rockwood said. “So that ended the war on Japan but we continued on to the Philippines.”

After serving, Willis Rockwood settled in Holt and started a carpenter business where he built homes for more than 40 years.

“I have a nickname that I always refer to him as, is a national treasure,” his son said.

The World War II veteran is full of life experiences and is passing them down to the next generation.

“As you grow older, you appreciate all these things that you take in when you’re around your parents,” Craig Rockwood said.

Willis Rockwood said he has some advice to help make the lives of others as fulfilling as his own.

“Gain all the friends you can because your friends are the biggest helpers in this world,” said Rockwood.

Willis Rockwood received a congressional proclamation on his birthday for his service to the nation and his community.

“It makes you feel special,” he said.

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