A remarkable story from the 4th floor of the VA Building in downtown Homestead. Seems a local veteran was about to celebrate his 100th birthday and I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to meet him and perhaps enjoy a slice of birthday cake provided by the caring staff at this special office.
Taking a seat, I waited for centurion Luis Caldero to enter the double doors. As several vets entered however it wasn’t until 11:20 that a gentleman entered and everyone began singing Happy Birthday. Quickly, I deduced this could not by Luis. From his looks and stride, this man had to be in his early 80’s. In disbelief I questioned, “Are you Luis Caldero?” His words were as crisp as his steps, “Yes sir, that’s me!”
Mr. Caldero was born on January 12, 1919 in Puerto Rico. He finished the 7th grade, and went to work in the sugar cane farms for 10 years to help support his family.
He volunteered for the US ARMY at 24 years old. During WWII he served in South America, Africa, France and for two years in Germany. After several years of active duty during WWII, Luis left to pursue his studies and completed his high school diploma. In 1951, while in the Army Reserves, the Army called him up to serve in Korea. He remained in Korea for three years reaching the rank of sergeant. After Korea, he was stationed in Alaska for five years training soldiers. From there he was transferred to Fort Gordon, Georgia.
Luis also served in Vietnam for 18 months making him a veteran of three wars. In 1968 he retired from the Army. He went on to perform civil service duties for the Army assisting with training of our U.S. soldiers.
Luis is a man who cherishes his family, his country, and his faith in God. Before parting, Luis let me in on his secret goal, “I want to beat the world record for longevity, I think its 122 years.” I gave him a bit of good news, “The record of 122 is no longer valid. Now it stands at 119 and was set in the United States.” He smiled with a look of determination in his eyes. As we departed I remarked, “I believe if anyone can break that record it will be you and I plan to be there to cover the story."