102-year-old veteran gets birthday wish surprise

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 10:41 PM CST
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SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - You can find Bernie Regan roaming the halls of Watercrest Senior Living in Santa Rosa Beach, especially before dinner. But on Monday, Regan was having a special dinner that was 102 years in the making. Family and friends threw Regan a roaring 1920s themed birthday party for his 102nd birthday.

“Happy Birthday” rang through the halls from the piano sitting in the corner of the common area. Champagne toasts and “Cheers to Bernie” interjecting the old tunes being played.

“This is something, who dreamed this?” asked Bernie to one of the employees.

“Everyone did, just for you, just for you.”

A roaring 1920′s themed party. Guests showed off their flapper-era clothes while mingling and talking with the guest of honor.

“You are a special man Mr. Bernie, you are loved,” said Stanley Gremillion, a Vietnam veteran and Bernie’s workout coach.

”The oldest one there and he does the best out of all of us, showing us up,” said Gremillion.

“It feels like I’m 65 right now,” said Bernie.

Regan is known to show up his younger military buddies he served in Vietnam with. Defying his age in physical activity and wit. Bernie actively works out, does yoga, and plays bridge.

“It feels like I’m 65 right now.”

Being active is a trend for Regan. Before he served in Vietnam, he was an accomplished pilot in the Air Force, flying bombers during D-Day in WWII. A 30-year military career in total, even working in the Pentagon for legislative affairs.

“I can’t say my part was any better or bigger than anybody’s, probably a lot smaller than there’s,” said Regan. “It was an experience, and adventure actually.”

An adventure joined by his family including two sons, and his wife Kay of 77 years. A love he misses dearly after she passed away in 2020.

“She died of a stroke suddenly so she didn’t suffer much. Except it’s a lot of suffering for those who are left but you got to learn to live with it.”

So his family wanted to throw him a grand party. But what’s a birthday without surprises? Bernie’s son, Michael, teamed up with Medal of Honor Mail Call, a group that sends letters to veterans.

“It started several months ago and as I said there were 51 that came in one day,” said Michael.

After a month of letters being sent, there were nearly 400. So many, they lost count.

“Isn’t that amazing, I just can’t wait to open them up and see what’s in there. I’ll be 103 before I get through,” said Bernie. “People are wonderful.”

Nearly all 50 states were represented in the box of letters they brought out to Bernie, including one from Canada. All thanking him for a life of service to his country.

A reminder his service is never forgotten, and a birthday he won’t soon forget.

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