Hundreds honor WWII veteran in Sun City on his 103rd birthday

Drivers in Arizona lined a street to salute WWII hero Gino Mei.
Drivers in Arizona lined a street to salute WWII hero Gino Mei.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 9:15 PM MST
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SUN CITY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Gino Mei has had birthdays all over the world, but Thursday’s celebration in Sun City may be one of his favorites. Hundreds of people came out to his street to give the World War II veteran a birthday celebration he won’t soon forget. They did a drive-by salute to honor him. People from all over the Valley joined in, including the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, veterans groups, police departments and more.

Mei has lived an interesting life. He was in Italy with his parents when WWII broke out. He was drafted into the Italian army when he was 18, but when they found out Benito Mussolini was going to side with Adolf Hitler, Mei was shipped to America. That’s where he joined the U.S. Army and went back to Europe, where he fought the Germans. Mei said one time, he was put in charge of a mission to get across the river because the officers said it was too dangerous. There were 200 soldiers in his team. They were all decoys and helped. “That’s where I got the Bronze Star in the war for this effort that I did,” Mei said. He was hit with shrapnel and knocked off course but was eventually found.

Mei was recuperating in France and thought he was coming home, but then Gen. George Smith Patton said every abled-body soldier had to fight. So Mei went to D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes forest. Besides the Bronze Star, he received the Purple Heart and several other medals. He stayed in the Army for 4.5 years.

On Thursday, Mei was all smiles and excited for his big day. “I feel great. I feel like I could go another 103,” he said. Before the parade, he was made an honorary Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office posse member. Then it was outside as hundreds of people saluted him for his service and amazing life. So what’s the secret to a long life? Mei said it’s thinking of others. “I always enjoyed doing things for other people,” he said.