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WWII hero celebrates 99th birthday on Fourth of July

Happy birthday to retired Gen. Leo LaCasse!

SALEM, Va. – A man who escaped death three times in World War II is marking a milestone.

Retired Gen. Leo LaCasse will blow out 99 candles this Fourth of July.

The Purple Heart recipient says he's not surprised at all that he's nearing his 100th birthday.

LaCasse now calls the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center home, but his friends still stop by often to check up on him.

They don't leave the porch, but they take trips down memory lane.            

“I used to go to all the bombings that went on into Germany,” LaCasse said.

He served in World War II as a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber pilot, completing 35 missions.

Despite being shot down three times and taken captive in each instance, he simply walked out of captivity.

“I had never the thought of having given myself up for doing something. I was always at the height of how do I get out of this, and I did,” LaCasse said.

He got out by hiking the Pyrenees Mountains, once barefoot after his shoes fell apart.

“I knew the Pyrenees from the back of my hand,” he said.

Shockingly, the one-star general is not surprised he has made it to 99.

“I'm grateful for having lived as long as I have, because I'm close to 100, you know,” said LaCasse.

“He told me not too long ago  he wasn't even talking about 99, he's waiting for the hundred. That's just the way he is. He said, ‘I'm waiting for the 100, so we can have a big party,’” said Ned LeGard, LaCasse’s friend.  

A war hero's birthday is certainly something to celebrate.

About the Author:

After working and going to school in Central Virginia for over five years, Lindsey’s made her way back home to the mountains.