World War II Veteran celebrates 99th birthday with surprise parade

(FreeImages.com/Anthony Eden)

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Even after all of his 99 years on this Earth, Mr. Joe Hayes still said he’s never seen anything like it.

Mr. Hayes is a World War II veteran, and celebrated his 99th birthday with a surprise parade on Friday, according to WECT.

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Hayes’ family coordinated a surprise drive-by parade for him but never expected such a rally from the community.

“Was I surprised? Honey, the word surprised doesn’t give the answer to it,” Hayes said. “It’s just so unbelievable.”

And when WECT asked Mr. Hayes the big question, “What’s the secret to living?” Hayes credited his faith.

“The man upstairs,” Hayes said. “The man upstairs.”

Hayes said there were times when he was in the war that he really shouldn’t have been able to come through safely, but with the power of grace and faith, he did.

“You ain’t supposed to be looking at me today,” Hayes said through tears. “Because I ain’t supposed to be here. But the man upstairs said, not so.”

The community showed out for Mr. Hayes’ surprise parade: dozens of friends, neighbors, and strangers drove by to sing, wave, and deliver gifts. All smiling and laughing just as Mr. Hayes does on his front porch every morning.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Hayes said. “You might ask yourself, how am I gonna love somebody that hates me? But that’s God’s word.”


About the Author:

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.