At 97, retired Maj. Maximo Young, one of the few, if not the only living Filipino veteran of three wars – World War 2, Korea and Vietnam – remains strong and healthy despite nearing the century mark.

Young celebrated his 97th birthday with vigor by walking around, smiling and shaking hands with visitors who attended his natal day celebration at the Officers Clubhouse in Camp Aguinaldo on Saturday.

A thanksgiving mass preceded the grand birthday celebration.

During the singing of a birthday song for him, his wife, Mercedes, 68, hugged him to the delight of friends and visitors.

When World War II broke out on Dec. 8, 1941, Young, a cadet at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA,) joined the Filipino forces to fight the Japanese, who invaded the Philippines. He was 19 at that time.

As a guerrilla fighter, Young demonstrated his bravery fighting the Japanese.

At one instance, Young almost got killed when a boat of the guerrillas carrying supplies was intercepted and sank by the Japanese in the Visayan Sea.

He evaded being captured by swimming to the shoreline.

Following the surrender of Japanese forces in 1944, Young continued his military career as a lieutenant of the Philippine Army.

Six years later, when the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, Young volunteered to join the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) to fight the Chinese and North Korean communist forces who invaded South Korea.

As a tank commander of the 10th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) of PEFTOK, Young and his troops fought the Chinese and North Korea troops in two-day close-quarter fighting in what is now known as the Great Battle at Yultong, stopping the enemy from entering South Korea.

It was at Yultong that Young and his troops showed the Filipino gallantry in combat against all odds.

For his heroic action, Young was awarded the “Taegeuk Medal”, the highest military award of South Korea given to a soldier for bravery in combat.

Another Filipino trooper who was awarded posthumously the same medal was Capt. Conrado Yap, who was killed during the Battle at Yultong, after he refused to leave his men and courageously fought single-handedly against the Chinese and North Korean forces.

The fighting in Korea ended in 1953 with a divided Korea, with the South as a democratic country and North a communist-ruled nation to date.

The dividing line is called the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

In 1966 when the Vietnam War erupted, Young found himself in South Vietnam as a military advisor of the South Vietnamese government.

Though he did not fight in Vietnam, he witnessed at close range the heavy fighting in that once war-torn country.

During his 97th birthday bash, Young thanked God for long life, surviving World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War without injury.

At age 97, Young looks younger at 70 as he walks without a cane, reads without reading glasses and most of all, plays badminton regularly to keep him fit and young, connoting his family name.

He and his wife are blessed with eight children with the same number of in-laws and 27 grandchildren.

In greeting Young, retired Lt. Gen. Nesty G. Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), said that he will pray that Young would reach the age of not only 100 but 123 years old.

With his good health, Young may reach that age with God’s blessings, nothing is impossible. (Ben Cal, Philippine News Agency)