Pearl Harbor veteran celebrates 100th birthday

Posted at 7:38 AM, Aug 28, 2019

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A local Navy veteran is celebrating a milestone birthday.

John Vanauken turned 100 years old last week, but at VFW Post 392 in Virginia Beach Tuesday, he celebrated with the help of nearly 75 service members. While Vanauken knew about the party, he was surprised by the outcome.

"I couldn’t believe they would honor me in this way," said Vanauken. "I must admit I was shocked, but I was so honored that they would go to this extent to pay respect to me. It's just been delightful."

Vanauken enlisted in the Navy in 1938 and retired in 1968. In front of a packed VFW, he explained that he had a hard time enlisting because it was a time of a peace. He was eventually stationed aboard the USS California.

He soon saw the time of peace change into a time of war when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Vanauken still remembers vivid details from that day, especially abandoning ship and swimming through water that was on fire.

"It was a mess," he recalled simply.

In addition to talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor and the rest of his military career, he also talked about how fortunate he feels to make it to 100.

"I loved what I'm doing. I enjoyed every minute of it and as a result, here I am - 100 years old and I'm still enjoying every day."

He says doing what you love is the secret to a long and happy life.

"Enjoy what you are doing. Not only enjoy it, but do whatever you're doing - do it to the very best of your ability. That’s my best advice. I’ve lived that way all my life."

While being 100 comes with its own set of challenges, his eyesight is poor, so he struggles to read the newspaper every day. But, he is still finding ways to enjoy his life.

For now, that joy comes from watching golf on television and he says in the fall, that joy will come from watching football and spending time with his family.