KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Most of the American heroes who served during World War II are, unfortunately, passing on.
But one Northland neighborhood turned out on Thursday to honor a veteran on his 100th birthday, seven decades after he survived the Battle of the Bulge in Europe.
The sirens of Kansas City police cruisers and Kansas City fire engines blasted through a quiet neighborhood near N.E. Winn Road on Thursday, and 100-year-old Dale Cooksey took it in with a bright smile.
Cooksey, a retired businessman, has sharp memories of his military service from 1944-46, serving as a U.S. Army infantryman, battling the Axis Powers on Europe’s Western Front.
“I didn’t think I’d live long enough to collect Social Security,” Cooksey laughed.
Kansas City police officers told FOX4 that Cooksey is an ardent supporter of first responders, so they, along with firefighters, led a pandemic-safe birthday parade down his street. His yard was adorned with giant signs reading, “Happy Birthday #100.”
Neighbors also visited him in his front yard, bringing gifts, balloons and cards. Police officers and firefighters saluted Cooksey in respect to his service to our nation.
“I’ve had wonderful birthdays anyway, but this one here tops them all, I tell you,” Cooksey said.
The retired businessman was married for 74 years. His loving wife, Atha, passed in 2014.
On Cooksey’s 99th birthday, Kansas City Police pilots took him for a celebratory flight in one of their helicopters. On Thursday, those choppers made several passes by his home, joining in the centennial celebration.
Police officers and members of the Boy Scouts and Veterans of Foreign Wars erected a new flagpole in his yard. An honor guard presented Cooksey with a brand new American flag, which now flies over his lawn.
“Dale comes with the neighborhood. He’s become a beloved resident,” KCPD Officer Rick Jones said. “He’s as patriotic as they come. He’s proud of his service and proud of the life he’s lived.”
Cooksey admits he’s slowed down a little over the years, but he’s not quitting either. He joked that he hopes to turn 101 next year — provided it gets him half this amount of attention.