ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –A New Mexican World War II veteran celebrated his 100th birthday. Robert Nolen Jr. was surrounded by four generations of family Thursday, in the Albuquerque home where he’s lived for more than 40 years.

The veteran said the past century has been incredible. “I’m really pleased that they could help me celebrate you know and I just never dreamed that I’d get through this far. I’ve been very, very fortunate,” says Robert Nolen Junior, WWII Veteran. 

Story continues below:

On May 18, 1923, in Wichita Falls, Texas, Robert Edward Nolen Junior was born. He grew up during the Great Depression and said a lot has changed throughout his lifetime. Nolen, who showed no signs of slowing down, said he was attending Texas A&M University when World War II started in 1942 and he felt he needed to do his part. “We were ready to make that effort into Europe…everybody was going overseas to try and finish off Hitler,” says Nolen. 

Nolen says he remembers when Pearl Harbor was bombed and how the country came together to join the war effort. In October 1944, Nolen was sent to Belgium near the German border. 

A month later, a German mortar injured his left arm and he was sent back home. He was presented with a Purple Heart for his service. He says when the war ended, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. “It was wonderful, we were all so thankful that we had survived it,” says Nolen. 

After the war ended, Nolen spent some time in Taos, before moving to Albuquerque to attend the University of New Mexico where he met his wife, Glenna Jean Nolen, of 66 years in 1949. Today, Nolen’s family includes two children, two grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and twelve great-great-grandchildren.

He shared what it takes to reach 100 years old. “For many, many years I’ve been drinking one Coors a day…that might of helped me live a long time you know,” says Nolen. 

 On a more reflective note, Nolen says the key to a beautiful life is optimism. “You don’t have to have everything perfect all the time you can have a wonderful life. There’s going to be some setbacks there’s going to be some setbacks but you don’t give up and you keep fighting,” says Nolen. 

Nolen says he wants to reach 110. He says one thing left on his bucket list is to go fishing in the streams in Colorado.