Best friends who served in World War II surprised with double drive-by birthday celebration

Safe-at-home orders didn't stop two longtime best friends and World War II veterans from celebrating their birthdays together. The L.A. County Sheriff's Department, family and community helped make sure of it.
WHITTIER, Calif. (KABC) -- A surprise birthday party honored two veterans who served their country during World War II. Randy Fernandez, 96, sat next to his best buddy, Sal Guzman, 97, as they were treated to a drive-by parade in Whittier, including deputies, former members of the military and many community well-wishers.

A sheriff's helicopter saluted them with a flyover. L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was on-hand to present some special gifts to the two veterans. Villanueva said Guzman is distantly related to his wife.

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The Memorial Day ceremony is one of the largest commemorations held in Southern California, where local leaders and families have traditionally gathered at the L.A. National Cemetery to pay their respects.

Guzman and Fernandez's birthdays are separated by less than two weeks. They met in second grade and graduated from the same East Los Angeles high school.

Both joined the military in the 1940s after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Guzman became a member of the Coast Guard. Randy served in the Army.

"I'm very thankful to friends and my family and I am glad we're still here. Hopefully, we'll be here another couple of years," said Guzman.

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"I was born in Juarez, Mexico, and I volunteered to go into the service because I wanted to become an American citizen," said Fernandez.

"These two gentlemen - they're living history. They've gone through everything. You start from the Great Depression to WWII, everything that happened since then, they lived through it all," said Villanueva.

Mariachi serenaded the buddies. Both veterans returned to California after the war, bought homes on the same street in Montebello, raised families and always maintained their friendship.

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