With his 100th birthday just two days away, World War II veteran and social media phenomenon Joe Cuba has far exceeded his goal of getting 100 birthday cards for his upcoming centennial birthday.
Thursday’s birthday party was very special to the Army veteran because it was hosted by the 365th training squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base. As part of the greatest generation, Joe Cuba has quite a story to tell about what he experienced during World War II. But frankly, he said, he’s just lucky to be alive.
It’s the story that has captivated the entire globe since going viral a week ago when a photo was posted of Cuba holding up a sign asking for 100 birthday cards for his 100th birthday.
But he’s gotten so much more, about 30,000 birthday cards and gifts, a mention on “The Today Show,” a pencil sketch portrait from a Hungarian artist, and also a birthday celebration with the airmen of Sheppard Air Force Base. All heartwarming gestures that are still a surprise to Joe Cuba and his family.
“I want to thank all of the little school children all over the United States and the world for sending him beautiful, beautiful accolades. Beautiful cards and we never dreamed it would be this big of an extravaganza,” Joe Cuba’s daughter Beverly Cuba said.
But decades before becoming an internet sensation, Cuba, 24, decided to join the United States Army Air Corps where he was a part of the 20th squadron and stationed in Guam.
“I flew from those little islands at night time usually, I wanted nights flying. I liked that it seemed like a little safer for me and I wanted a high-speed plane so I could get away from them and sometimes I had to,” Cuba said.
Every time he was able to get away alive, but Cuba said there were several times he probably shouldn’t have.
“I got shot at many times. I had holes in wings but not enough to bring me down. I was fortunate that I could always come in. I crippled in somehow maybe I’d have a bunch of holes in both wings, but it didn’t make me fall,” Cuba said.
It’s those memories that Cuba said stay with him as pushes the century mark and toward a birthday that he once thought would never be.
Joe Cuba will be turning 100 on Saturday and there is a big celebration planned at Brookdale Midwestern where he now lives. During that party, he’ll receive a big gift from Sen. Pat Fallon, a flag that has been flown over the Texas capitol with a resolution commemorating his special day as well as a giant birthday card signed by all 31 state senators and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Mayor Stephen Santellana will also be presenting Joe Cuba with a proclamation on Saturday making March 2 Joe Cuba Day.