LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Celebrating a war hero's 96th birthday.
Turning 96 is just one reason Dean Whitaker is going to enjoy some of his favorite things, as he marks another year young.
Whitaker says there are moments in his life he will never forget. One of them, his time at war.
"Many incidents came up where I could've been killed," he said.
Whitaker was a bombardier fighting in Europe during World War II in a mission over Germany.
His crew was shot down, his only chance of survival was jumping out of the burning plane with his parachute not fully secure.
"I jumped out with just one side fastened, on the way down I thought I gotta fasten it, I'm getting too close to the ground," Whitaker said.
He made it, but most of his crew was killed and for seven months he was a prisoner of war.
"They shot at me all the way down, bullets were whizzing by me. So, when I got to the ground I knew I was going to be shot," Whitaker said.
And that moment is still very fresh in his mind.
"I don't like to talk about as much. I was blessed to stay alive," he said.
Now, Whitaker spends time perfecting a hobby he picked up after the war.
Thanks to the encouragement of his late wife of 72 years, his home is currently covered in happy clouds and happy trees.
"I said boy that sure looks easy. So, I started painting and it was very welcomed," Whitaker said.
As he gets ready for his birthday bash one wish is more friends.
His advice is to never take life for granted.
Whitaker's official birthday is Thursday and 13 Action News wants to thank him for his service and wish him a very happy birthday.