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Veteran celebrating 101st birthday says this soda is his secret to longevity

Veteran Eugene Petersen, a retired U.S. Army sergeant major, celebrated his 101st birthday at Travis Air Force Base in California, where the centenarian volunteers several days a week, the base said Tuesday. 

His daughter was asked what she thought the secret to Peterson's longevity was. 

"He doesn't let any moss grow under him," she said, according to the military base. 

Peterson had a different answer: Dr Pepper

Petersen was drafted in 1941 and served in the Philippines and Vietnam, according to his daughter. He left the Army after serving for 59 years and then went on to work for the United States Postal Service for 14 years. 

The veteran has spent more than a decade volunteering at the David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base. He started there in 2010 and still devotes at least four hours a day, three to five days a week, at the center, the base said.

Eugene Petersen
Mr. Eugene "Gene" Petersen celebrates his 101st birthday and 59 years of service to his country at David Grant Medical Center, Travis AFB, California. U.S. Air Force photo by Randy Couch

"He is instrumental in assisting our Health Information Management office in maintaining 124,000 medical records for our 276,000 Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs eligible beneficiaries," Lt. Col. Reni Angelova, 60th Medical Support Squadron commander, said. "He shares his knowledge, experience and life with our staff and young Airmen."

And Peterson is not the only centenarian who has expressed a deep fondness for Dr Pepper. Elizabeth Sullivan, a Texas woman who died in 2017 at age 106, said in 2015 that the soda was her drink of choice and that she would even have it with breakfast.

"I started drinking them about 40 years ago — three a day," she told CBS Texas at the time. "Every doctor that sees me says it'll kill you, but they die, and I don't, so there must be a mistake somewhere."

Other centenarians have insisted over the years that other drinks and foods have been the keys to their longevity. A then-105-year-old woman said in 2013 she ate bacon every day, while a man who was 101 years old in 2019 said at the time he drank a Coors Light daily at 4 p.m.

But Sister Andre, who died a year ago at 118, said work and caring for others was what kept her spry.

Experts have found that eating wisely, moving naturally, connecting with others and having a purpose or outlook can help you live longer. In one survey, a quarter of centenarians said keeping a positive attitude topped the list of ways to stay healthy.

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