soldier salute

A man driving an American military vehicle salutes World War II veteran Eli Linden, who celebrated his 99th birthday on Saturday at Ashleigh at Landsowne, an assisted living facility in Leesburg.

A celebration was held at Ashleigh at Lansdowne Saturday morning to celebrate a special milestone for one of its residents.

Eli Linden celebrated his 99th birthday on Saturday in Leesburg. The World War II veteran, who is a resident of the Ashleigh at Lansdowne, received a hero’s reception to celebrate his birthday at the front entrance of the assisted living facility.

A parade of cars also drove by to honk and pay tribute to Linden, who is a recipient of the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the French Legion of Honor.

After the parade had concluded, a special ceremony in the upstairs room of Ashleigh at Landsdowne was held where Linden’s son, Bob, and daughter, Vicki Beach, spoke to attendees about how much their father meant to them and their families.

“My father was never elected to public office, he didn’t jump into burning houses to save people. But he did put his life on the line during World War II and he is our hero,” said Bob. “He is and continues to be the most courageous and the most resourceful man we’ve met. We never questioned if he loved us or if he cared for us because he made it so obvious.”

About 30 or 40 people showed up to attend the event, along with Linden’s family members and attendees were offered a variety of treats, like doughnuts and mimosas.

Up until he was 97, Linden was still driving, dancing, and continued to have an active, productive life according to Beach. A few years ago, Linden had a stroke which left him cognitively challenged and is currently in the memory care unit at the facility. But Beach said she and her family are still grateful her father, whom she and her family often visit, is still with them.

One feature of Linden’s that still shines to this day, according to family members, is his sense of humor. When he used to visit elementary school to speak to children about the events of World War II, Beach said he would tell them about Pearl Harbor and how he hadn’t heard of the place at the time of the attack.

“‘So I took out my iPad and looked it up,’” Vicki said Eli would joke, adding that some of the students would catch on and laugh.

Eli and his wife, Thelma, moved to Northern Virginia in 2007 after living in Brooklyn for almost his entire life, and is doing as well as he can be, according to his daughter.

According to a statement read aloud by the Chariots of Honor who attended the event to discuss Linden’s military service, Linden began his military service in 1943 when he received his draft notice and was sent to England in May 1944 a few months after moving to Ft. McLellan in Alabama for basic training.

The Chariots of Honor also said that while he was a part of the “Tough Hombres” of the 90th infantry division fighting in Utah Beach, Linden was wounded by shrapnel at the Battle of the Hedgerows and sent back to England for two to three months of recovery.

Upon returning to France, Linden rejoined Gen. Patton’s third army of the 90th infantry division where he was a member of a two-man scout team, surveying the area ahead of the allied army to make sure where they were headed was safe, according to the Chariots of Honor.

Linden had to endure the hardships of being a prisoner of war after he was captured by the German army in 1944, according to a 2019 interview shared by Friends of the National World War II memorial. In the interview, Linden said he was inside of for about four or five months before Russians liberated the camp.

Linden would go on to rejoin his American comrades before the fighting ultimately stopped in August 1945, according to the interview.

Bob Linden described his father as a Renaissance man, who dabbled in oil paintings, enjoys classical music, and loved travelling with his wife all over the world.

“In fact, the first check he ever made went to a Nat King Cole album,” said the younger Linden. “And rest assured, we know the album wasn’t in a CD format.”

He also mentioned how rare it is for a son or daughter to say that while growing up, their father was their closest friend, their confidant or their reassuring source. Such was the case for his father’s children, he said.

“So let’s make a plan: We will be here April 8, 2023, to celebrate this gentleman’s 100th birthday,” he said, before making a toast to his dad.

Speaking to the crowd after her brother, Beach said, “My father, [always] modest, would probably tell you that he’s not worthy of this or any sort of celebration. But he, like other members of this generation, deserved to be recognized for their service to our country during World War II.”

(1) comment

J Smith

Mr. Linden, thank you for your service and sacrifice for our country. Congratulations on your 99th and very best wishes for this next year! May we be worthy of your sacrifice.

To Bob and Vicki, there’s a reason they were called the Greatest Generation.

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