(GARDENA, Calif.) — An emotional video of World War II veteran Ernest Thompson went viral in August after the Chief selects of the Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center showed up on Thompson’s front lawn to serenade him with “Anchors Aweigh” when he was no longer able to visit his beloved local battleship, USS Iowa, due to health reasons.
The video of Thompson, from Gardena, California, standing in salute as he got the surprise of a lifetime from the Chief selects, which means they’ve been selected for the rank of Chief Petty Officer, has been viewed on Facebook more than 30 million times.
“Neighbors came out of their houses to witness a once in a lifetime experience. My grandfather told me that it was one of the best days of his life!” Thompson’s grandson, Jonathan Williams, wrote in a Facebook post at the time, explaining the story behind the video.
On Oct. 26, Thompson will celebrate another wonderful day: his 99th birthday.
In order to make his upcoming birthday just as special as the day he was serenaded, the Battleship Iowa honored him by throwing a large party with his closest family, friends and the chief selects who so graciously sang to him over the summer.
“Some of the selects came back out to sing to him and we had two big cakes,” Battleship Iowa museum spokesman Andrew Bossenmeyer told ABC News.
A press release about the birthday celebration said Thompson witnessed the end of WWII aboard the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945. Prior to WWII, he served aboard the USS Tennessee where he played on the ship’s baseball team. He has two daughters, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
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