PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — From head to toe, William Perrone, born July 13, 1921, wears his track record. The World War II veteran has been around the block a few times and knows the birthday routine, cake and candles. But for his 100th birthday, he had a special wish.
"I want to go on TV," said Perrone. "One thing I've never done before."
What very few can do is give first-hand accounts of things most people only read about in history books, like the front lines of World War II. In that sense, the friends and family around today, like Jim Goldsmith, said they're the ones getting the real gift.
"He represents a group of soldiers our country, the British, Winston Churchill, that stopped the world going mad," said Goldsmith.
Perrone, or "Mr. Bill," as he's lovingly called, said his tour spanned across Europe and ended with a Purple Heart.
"I went into France through Normandy, from Normandy all the way through France, all the way through Germany, all the way up to Belgium," recalled Perrone. "Then turned around, went to Italy and then I said to the old man, 'Don't you think it's time for us to go home?'"
As a member of the "Greatest Generation" and dwindling group of World War II vets, Perrone said he's seen things that weren't so great.
"The hardest thing I've ever seen in my entire life was the Holocaust," said Perrone. "I was face to face seeing what they were doing to the people and I was sick, physically sick, for one solid week because of what you witnessed, how they treated people, and these were called the SS troopers of Germany."
Home now is the Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie area in Florida, surrounded by friends and family that keep him young.
When asked about the secret behind his longevity, he had a list.
"Don't worry about a thing, positive thinking, and age doesn't mean a thing," said Perrone. "Remember, it's not who you are, what you are. It's what you do."
He may be 100 on paper, but he's young at heart. In between the good times, Jessica Ballash said over the course of their 17-year friendship, she's learned some life lessons from Perrone.
"How to live happily," said Ballash. "How to not let things bother you."
Even at 100, Perrone is still learning that you are the company you keep.
This story was originally published by Chris Gilmore at WPTV.