World War 2 veteran Bud Rosch of Bethpage, was surprised with a drive-by parade for his 100th birthday on Sunday. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

World War II veteran Bud Rosch stood outside his Bethpage home Sunday and watched as a drive-by caravan celebrating his 100th birthday passed through and thought about how lucky he was to be there.

Getting shot down while flying over enemy territory in Italy couldn’t take out a 24-year-old Rosch in 1944. Neither could a positive case of COVID-19 when the Bethpage resident was 99 years old.

"Boy I’m glad when I jumped out [of the plane] I didn’t get killed," he said Sunday, one day after he turned 100. "I would have missed all of this."

Hundreds of people, including military re-enactors, local fire departments, government officials, friends, family and a pipe and drum band, rolled past the residential street in the morning to wish him a happy birthday. Veteran Frank Agoglia of Deer Park, who recently turned 97, was also there to celebrate Rosch.

Roger Kilfoil, president of Honor Flight Long Island, which takes veterans on trips to see the nation’s war memorials, said he organized the parade because the organization could not conduct its twice-yearly flights in 2020 because of the pandemic.

"Bud is a genuine American hero," said Kilfoil, whose organization had previously transported Bud and 27 other veterans to the National World War II Memorial in New Orleans. "We love Bud."

Rosch was aboard a plane that was shot down by enemy fire during a mission targeting the Brenner Railroad Loop in Italy on Dec. 28, 1944.

Bud Rosch, right, with friends and WWII veterans Richard Heinl,...

Bud Rosch, right, with friends and WWII veterans Richard Heinl, 96, left, and Carl Tringali, 96.  Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

One crew member was killed and three bailed out too early, landed in enemy territory and became prisoners of war. But Rosch and a few others were able to jump and safely land in Allied territory before the plane, called "The Lady in the Dark," crashed.

Rosch was taken in by a pair of Italian women who nursed his wounded legs for a day. He went out and connected with an Allied convoy three days later and recuperated in a hospital for about a week before being sent back into the field, according to family members.

He went on many more missions before coming home and settling with his late wife Elsie in Bethpage in 1950. They had three children, eight grandchildren and 15 great-children.

Rosch was presented with proclamations from Oyster Bay Town, Nassau County and the state for his service after the parade. He was also presented by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) with a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol building.

Bud Rosch greets well-wishers during a drive-by birthday celebration in...

Bud Rosch greets well-wishers during a drive-by birthday celebration in Bethpage on Sunday. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

He stood for the entire ceremony and shook off a blanket someone offered to keep him warm.

"I don’t even use a cane," he said. "If I start using a cane I’ll be in a wheelchair in no time."

That vigor came in handy when he contracted a case of COVID-19 in August. It made him tired and took his sense of taste, but he overcame the virus.

"If World War II didn’t take him, and coronavirus didn’t take him out, then he’s going to go out when he says he’s going to go out," said Elora von Rosch, 29, of Hoboken, one of his granddaughters.

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