JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) – Elmer Knox is 94 years young. He still remembers the day when he and his friends were leaving school and decided they wanted to join the fight during World War II. The problem was he was only 16.

“Somebody had the bright idea to take some eradicator and put it on my date of birth and change the date,” said Knox.

The attempt didn’t work.

“He said ok birth certificates and everybody had their birth certificates and he held them to a light and said nope.”

But Knox was eager to serve, and lucky for him a new law from President Roosevelt allowed 16-year-olds to help deliver supplies. So, he made a promise to his mom.

“I told my mother when I joined if she signed for me I’d finish high school,” said Knox.

He got his wish working to ship vehicles and other supplies from the Philippines to Japan. It’s considered one of the more dangerous jobs, but it helped the US win the war. Knox was one of around 40,000 Native Americans to serve during World War II.

“I didn’t want to be left behind.”

Years later his service would continue. He joined the Air Force working on the B-36. It was the largest bomber ever built during the Korean war. Knox comes from the Grand River Ottawa Indians out of Grand Rapids. Their history is proudly decorated on the walls inside his home alongside patches from his time overseas. For Knox, they’re symbols of a life of adventure and the bonds he’s made along the way.

“Meeting all the people. All from different parts. I spent hours just talking to them.”

Knox says his time in the military taught him lessons he carries with him today.

“Stop and listen to others, and be an American in your heart first.”

For now, he says he’ll continue to remember the times he had serving his country.

“I enjoyed every minute of it.”