WWII veteran marks 100th birthday with celebration of patriotism, sacrifice

Carl Spurlin Dekle has seen a lot in his life, and now he can add another milestone memory. 

On Wednesday, June 29, his family and friends gathered to honor the service, sacrifice, and centennial of the World War II veteran in Plant City.

"Most important thing in my life was serving my country. I don't think I could take away from that," Dekle said. 

He went by many nicknames through his years -- Buddy, Deke, Spur, to name a few.

But he knows himself as a Marine and an American. 

Marine veteran Carl Dekel 100 birthday Plant City Florida

WWII Marine veteran Carl Dekle reflects on 100 years of life, service, and sacrifice from his home in Plant City, Florida

Dekle went to war in September 1940.

"They shipped me straight out to Guantánamo, which was a Navy base, and put me in a machine gun company," Dekle recalled.

Among his many commendations, awards, and medals, he says the Silver Star is his "pride and joy." 

marine veteran carl dekel medals

The medals hanging from WWII Marine veteran Carl Dekle's dress blues reflect 100 years of life, service, and sacrifice

"It says ‘gallantry in action,’" he said, pointing to the star hanging over two rows of medals on his dress blues.

"It was an honor for me to serve my country and if I had to do it again and I was the same age. I would do it. I guarantee you," he said. 

RELATED: Bay Area Silver Star recipient protected fellow Marines with 'complete disregard for his own safety'

As fondly as he speaks of his memories fighting for his country, Dekle admits how difficult the struggles really were.

"We were scared all the time. I don't care what anybody says. We were vulnerable all the time, since Pearl Harbor, particularly."

Dekle said he was blessed to be brought home when so many died, and tries not to question why.

In the many years since Dekle left the military, he has continued to make service his life mission, donating to food banks and participating in his church community.

Dekle said he strives to always maintain a positive outlook, but sometimes he reflects on the good in life and weighs it against the sacrifices made for it.

He does hope current and future generations are able to appreciate the sacrifices of those before them.

"People don’t realize what they have," Dekle said, showing his emotions. "The things we did and the things we fought for and the boys that died for it, it’s all gone down the drain."

"We haven’t got the country we had when I was raised, not at all," he said, being brought to tears. "Nobody will have the fun I had. Nobody will have the opportunity I had. It’s just not the same and that’s not what our boys, that’s not what they died for." 

Possibly the secret to living 100 years is acknowledging frustration and refocusing on the positive. 

"You just remember everything’s beautiful and live every day to the fullest. Just enjoy everything you possibly can," he said moments later. "And here I sit at 100. They tell me I'm 100. I don't believe it sometimes. Because I don't need to worry about age. I'm not going to, I just keep on keeping on."

Note: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Mr. Dekle's last name, which was previously spelled "Dekel." We regret the error.