WNY Native and World War II Veteran Celebrates 107th Birthday
If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that you should appreciate your veterans and those who served. Take care of them the way they fought to take care of us, no matter how much time has passed since they served our country.
Sydney Cole is a World War II veteran residing at a senior living facility in Batavia, NY, and he just reached an important milestone: his 107th birthday.
Born in Buffalo in 1914, Cole is the oldest resident of the community living center, and on Wednesday, close family and staff members surprised the WWII veteran with a birthday celebration at the VA Medical Center in Batavia. As he was wheeled out of the living facility, Sydney was greeted with cheering, music, presents, and of course, cupcakes. He was even able to dance with his family!
Cole is also one of the oldest living World War II veterans in the world.
Served in the Army
During the war, Cole served as a captain and reconnaissance pilot for the Army, and it was anything but easy. Cole was shot down from the sky as he was passing over Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. He was badly injured from the shrapnel and the gunfire he sustained when he was making his descent to the ground. Cole only had his parachute to use as a blanket -- his only protection against one of the worst winters in decades.
Taken as a Prisoner of War
Cole was unconscious for, what he thought, several days, until the Nazis captured him. His injuries were still prevalent as the Nazis tossed him on top of a tank to take Cole in as a Prisoner of War. Before falling back into an unconscious state, Cole caught wind of what was happening, and he quickly removed his dog tags and threw them into the woods.
This act may shock you, as most people know that having your dog tags is incredibly important. However, Cole’s dog tags had an “H” on them, which stands for “Hebrew.” If the Germans had seen this marking, they would have immediately known Cole was Jewish, and he would have been either shot on the spot or sent to a concentration camp.
Life After The War
After the war, he took a business career route, developing several successful businesses.
You might think that 107 years would slow you down, but Sydney’s son, Richard, assured us that his dad has lived a very active life and has hardly slowed down, if at all.
Notable Birthday Wishes
Not only was Sydney Cole celebrated in person, but he also received birthday cards from Congressman Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, State Senator Ed Rath, and Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia. They wished Cole a happy birthday “107 years young.”
“It’s quite an achievement, but we all know your real accomplishments,” Higgins wrote. “Your bravery, your patriotism, your sacrifices remain a true inspiration to all of us.”
The Purple Heart Foundation presented Cole with a plaque to commemorate his 107th birthday.