Houston WWII veteran turns 104 on Leap Day

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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Houston WWII veteran turns 104 on Leap Day
This World War II veteran is turning 104 - and 26! Jim Cordell was born on leap day - February 29, 1920 - so he's only gotten to celebrate his real birthday every four years!

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston World War II veteran is celebrating a very special birthday on this leap day. Jim Cordell is turning 104 years old - and also 26!

Since he was born on February 29th, he only gets to celebrate his birthday on the actual day every four years. He's part of a rare group of people called "leaplings", those who share the rarest birthday a person can have. The chances of being born on a leap day are only one in 1,461.

Cordell was born in 1920 and raised in a small Kansas town, where he was one of nine children in his family. Then, he felt the call to serve. He sailed to Pearl Harbor in 1944, and the following year, to the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. He was able to see Mount Suribachi the day that six Marines raised the American flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

"That was a beautiful sight to us because we felt we had won the battle," said Cordell.

After the war, he worked in the oil and gas industry as a petroleum engineer, and started a family. He has three children, five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. He even competed in the Senior Olympics, excelling in the pole vault and the high jump.

He has simple tips for a long, happy life, like staying active.

"Be careful how you live," said Cordell. "For exercise, I walk. I'm in great health."

But it's no surprise to him that he's lived such a long life.

"All of my family were extended ages," said Cordell. "I knew that I would certainly be over 100. I sort of looked forward to it."

And he believes he may may still have a few more good years left in him.

"I think maybe I'll just up and make 110," said Cordell. "That's not too far off."