SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Dozens of cars and motorcycles rode around town honking their horns to celebrate a major milestone for a pair of World War II veterans.
Gladys Klinepeter couldn’t believe that the community came out to express their gratitude on her 100th birthday.
“I feel very humble about it,” she said. “It’s a complete surprise.”
Klinepeter’s great-niece Eve Mitchell organized the drive-by celebration with the American Legion, VFW, American Veterans and Elk's Lodge.
“We’ve been looking forward to Gladys’ birthday for a long time,” Mitchell said. “It was really important to make sure it was a big celebration for her.”
Klinepeter was a Chief Yeoman — the highest rank attainable by a woman at the time — in the navy, serving the United States from 1943 to 1946.
“It was quite an experience,” Klinepeter said. “I went down to Los Angeles to enlist and my mother pleaded with me to not join. But I still joined that day.”
A few blocks away, Arthur M. Petersen celebrated his 97th birthday with his wife and family.
Petersen’s daughter Sonia Castellanos said her father enjoyed every minute of the parade.
“He was really happy and pleased to see so many flags,” she said. “So many people were honking and saluting at him.”
One of the last surviving members of the Screaming Eagles, Petersen parachuted into Normandy on D-Day.
He also participated in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.
Petersen was awarded two purple heart medals, the bronze star medal and in 2015, the french legion of honor medal in recognition for his heroism.
“The loss of life that occurred that day and the fact that he survived is kind of a bewilderment to him,” Castellanos said.
Local Democrat Congressman Salud Carbajal presented both veterans with congressional proclamations.
As for the key to living a long life, Klinepeter credits her faith in God.
“He has the secret for me,” the 100-year-old concluded. “You know what, I depend on him all the time.”
Of the 16 million men and women who originally served in World War II, only 300,000 are still alive.