HAMPTON, Va. — Hampton resident John Walker, Sr. said 1943, 1944 and 1945 were the hardest years of his life. 

He served as a sergeant with the U.S Army Air Forces during World War II.

“I cried for three years,” said Walker.

But ask the former Army Sergeant how he feels today, and you’ll see the resilience of a man who’s aged gracefully to the point of envy.

“I’m as happy as I can be,” said Walker.

Walker will turn 100 years old on March 17th.

He lives with the love of his life, Gladys, near Buckroe Beach. It’s only a block or two away from where he grew up.

He met Gladys around the same time he was deployed to England during World War II.

He would join the approximately 125,000 other African Americans who served overseas during the war.

It was a time when our country was just as divided as the world.

“Soldiers didn’t mingle together,” said Walker. “They had riots and stuff. White soldiers and black soldiers.”

Walker was honorably discharged in 1945.

He says two years later his life changed when he found God.

“He put love in my heart for everybody,” said Walker. “It’s still there today.”

That love has brought Walker his wife of more than 70 years, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

He’s healthy, happy, and despite every struggle imaginable in the early part of his life, he’s still here.

“Had a hard life, but I made it,” said Walker.