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South Mississippi World War II veteran celebrates 100th birthday

Published: Sep. 12, 2021 at 9:38 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2021 at 8:04 AM CDT
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VANCLEAVE, Miss. (WLOX) - Born in 1921, Talmage Byrd of Vancleave has seen a lot in his lifetime. On Sunday, close friends and family of the World War II vet gathered to celebrate his 100th birthday at the Vancleave HUD Community Center.

“To me, it’s just another day,” he said.

But it was ‘just another day’ following more than 35,000 in his lifetime. On this special occasion, he reflected.

“Some of that’s pictures where I was, and they took them,” he said, pointing to memorabilia in the room.

Inspired at the time by the Pearl Harbor attack, Byrd joined the Navy when he was 20 years old. His military career took off near the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. He was then stationed in Astoria, Oregon, where he worked to repair combat-damaged ships. Then, in the early 1950′s, Byrd was sent to Guam to help with its freshwater supply.

“I’ve had a lot of fun, I’ll say that,” Byrd said.

And the life of service he led has inspired generations of young men in his family. His son Larry Byrd also served in the Air Force, and his grandson Chris Rowell served in the Army.

“We’re just glad we’re here to celebrate with him,” said Larry. “He’s been here so long and hopes he’ll be here a lot longer, you know.”

“He’ll outlive us all,” Rowell added.

His son Larry joined the Air Force in 1965 and served more than 20 years maintaining aircraft like B-52′s. He retired in 1986. Grandson Rowell joined the Army in 2007 and served 13 months in Baghdad, Iraq. Injured, he left in 2011.

“It’s always important to serve your country. We’re glad to do it,” Larry said. “It’s kind of like a family tradition.”

Although Talmage is 100, it’s not slowing him down very much. He enjoys an active life that includes going dancing nearly every Friday night with a close friend.

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