BILLINGS — The number of World War II veterans left alive in America falls by the day, so it was a big deal when one Montana veteran celebrated his 98th birthday.
Bud LaCounte was born on May 25, 1923. A crowd of friends and family packed the VFW in the Billings Heights for an early celebration Sunday.
It’s a place where Bud has been known to spend some time on the dance floor. At the age of 98, he may have lost a step but hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
“Well, it feels one year better than 97,” he laughs. “I got a lot of my family here today. The place is full of them. The whole tribe is here.”
Bud has seen a lot in his 98 years. MTN News last talked to him two years ago as he was getting ready to head to ceremonies in France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. While there, he took a bad fall.
“I broke my hip. Had to have my hip replaced over there. They put in an artificial hip. Then I came home eventually, fell again and broke my neck,” he says.
Despite having undergone a total hip replacement just a day before, Bud soldiered on and was right behind then President Donald Trump for the ceremonies.
“Absolutely he was going to make those ceremonies. Both of us agreed that’s why we came he is going to make those ceremonies,” says his youngest daughter, Cynthia LaCounte.
His determination to survive was evident long before he ever set foot on Omaha Beach in World War II.
A Chippewa Indian, Bud was taken away from his family at the age of 6 and sent to the Fort Totten Indian school. He wouldn’t see them for another nine years.
Now a long lifetime later, he’s seen his own family grow and prosper.
“I’ve got grandkids here and great-grandkids and I see that I have one great-great-grandson here. I've got a whole bunch of relatives here,” Bud says.
As you might imagine, he’s quite an inspiration to his family and almost everyone who meets him.
“I’m so proud of him. He stormed the beaches of Normandy. The fact that he is still walking around at 98 years. The Lord has kept him alive for a long time and I’m very honored to be his great-grandson,” said Christian Thomas.
While Bud LaCounte may be a hero for some for serving in World War II, his daughter sees him as a hero for another reason.
“He’s been an incredible father. Growing up on the farm perfect childhood we all knew that duty of family and responsibility… but yeah absolutely hard work and determination describes my father,” says Cynthia LaCounte.
Happy birthday, Bud LaCounte.