Sinise took to his Twitter account with a reaction to Brooks’ death.
“An American hero passed away this morning. Lawrence Brooks, the oldest living WWII vet at 112 years old. Here we are at National WWII Museum in New Orleans when he was 106 years old,” Sinise wrote along with a photo of their meeting.
“He certainly had an incredible long life. God bless you sir. An honor to know you. Rest In Peace,” Sinise added.
Brooks’ daughter, Vanessa Brooks, who was also his caregiver, confirmed his death to the Military Times. She said he had been back and forth to the New Orelans VA Hospital in recent months, but was able to enjoy the holidays.
Born in Norwood, La., in 1909, Brooks has lived in New Orleans since 1929. Drafted in 1940, he was a private in the Army’s mostly Black 91st Engineer Battalion, a unit that was stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines and built infrastructure such as bridges, roads and airstrips.
Brooks celebrated his 112th birthday in September with a drive-by party at his New Orleans home hosted by the National World War II Museum, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported. He also received greetings from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who tweeted, “Mr. Brooks, the entire state of Louisiana thanks you for your service and we all wish you a joyous birthday.”
The museum has previously hosted parties for Brooks, although the coronavirus pandemic caused those events to shift to drive-by celebrations for the past two years.
In this Sept. 12, 2019 ,file photo, World War II veteran Lawrence Brooks celebrates his 110th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
In an oral history about his service posted on YouTube, Brooks described how he was delivering a load of barbed wire to the front when one of the engines of the C-47 he was traveling in went out.
After they dumped the barbed wire to conserve weight, he made his way to the cockpit. He told the pilot and co-pilot that since they were the only two with parachutes, if they had to jump for it, he was going to grab on to one of them.
“We made it though,” he said laughing. “We had a big laugh about that.”
Sinise, 66, is known for his advocacy work on behalf of America’s service members. He founded the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011 to “serve and honor America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, Gold Star families and those in need,” the website states.
World War II veteran Lawrence Brooks holds a photo of him taken in 1943, as he celebrated his 110th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
The foundation offers a variety of programs to give back to veterans and honor their legacy of service.
World War II veteran Lawrence Brooks receives a dog tag at the celebration of his 110th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
“Life can be very, very challenging for somebody in a wheelchair, somebody missing a limb, somebody with severe burns or traumatic brain injury, or blindness or whatever their particular challenges are. It can be very, very difficult just trying to function in an apartment or a small house that’s not built for somebody with physical challenges like that. So what we try to do is provide everything that you could possibly think of that would help to make the life of the veteran and the family be more independent; to have the service member be more independent,” he shared at the time.