105-Year-Old Vet Who Survived WWII, COVID Set For Combo Medal Ceremony, Birthday Party

Major Wooten, a 104-year-old WWII veteran from Alabama who survived COVID, is set to be honored with the French Legion of Honor in recognition of his service on his 105th birthday where he will have a birthday party and medal ceremony combined.

A statement from the French Consulate in Atlanta and Holly McDonald, Wooten's granddaughter, said the medal ceremony and birthday party will be held in Huntsville on Friday. Wooten was an Army private and fixed trains damaged from bombs in France, The Associated Press reported.

"The Legion of Honor is bestowed upon French citizens as well as foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds, including individuals who have contributed to the country professionally, as well as veterans such as the Americans who risked their lives during World War II fighting on French soil," the consulate announcement said.

The Legion of Honor was created on May 19, 1802, by Napoleon Bonaparte an order of merit given, regardless of birth status or religion, as long as the individuals swore to uphold liberty and equality, according to Britannica.

Wooten has also previously contracted COVID before his 104th birthday in November 2020. He was able to recover just in time for his birthday, discharging two days before it, AP reported.

"I'm just thankful that they were able to treat him so quickly and we were able to get him tested," said McDonald. "It's amazing that a 104-year-old survived COVID."

He was able to celebrate his birthday at home.

The medal, approved by French President Emmanuel Macron, will be presented to Wooten by Vincent Hommeril, the consul general for France in Atlanta. It is the highest medal of honor one can receive in France, according to The Legion of Honor website.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Major Wooten, Legion of Honor, 105th Birthday
In this photo provided by Holly McDonald, World War II veteran Major Wooten enjoys his Thanksgiving dinner with family in Madison, Ala., on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Wooten, who served in France during the war, will be presented with the French Legion of Honor during his 105th birthday party on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. Holly McDonald via AP

Drafted in 1943, Wooten landed in France in 1944 and was one of four brothers serving at the same time during the war. He served in Le Mans before being sent to work at a railroad station in Paris, according to a summary of his service from the French.

Wooten returned home in 1946 following the war and had a postwar career with U.S. Steel in Birmingham.

Wooten "is doing really well" despite the illness and participated in Veterans Day activities recently, said McDonald. Mental fuzziness that initially appeared with the illness faded away, she said, and his physical strength recovered, too.

"We really saw an improvement after therapy," she said.