Raymond Shelton is a celebrated Buffalo Soldier, but on Sunday there was something else to celebrate. Many members of the community celebrated his 100th birthday. Shelton was showered with love and appreciation not only for his service in the military, but for his continuing dedication the in community.
For Shelton, it was a day full of joy and nostalgia. Many gathered for a surprise ceremony at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in South Boston, celebrating a major landmark in Shelton's life.
"I can't believe I've reached 100 years old. I've been wondering how it feels to be in that three digit category," Shelton said.
Hitting that three digit category meant a time of honor.
"You have been bold and walked the walk as a Buffalo Soldier," said Sgt. Greg Scott in a speech to Shelton.
"WWII Veterans that's left in Halifax County, there's very few of them left.That's the time for me to really count my blessings," Shelton said.
Even President Barack Obama was counting Shelton's blessings in a special letter.
"Dear Raymond, I send my best wishes for a happy 100th birthday. As you celebrate this occasion, I hope you reflect with pride on the milestones that you have marked and the memories you have made," an excerpt of the letter read.
"That's a good feeling. I'm going to have that framed and keep it forever," Shelton said.
The celebration wasn't just for his dedication to the military. The crowd thanked him for using his musical talents at nursing homes and church services.
"We call him the maestro. There's no way you can go wherever he is and hear him play and not just stop and listen," said Edward Owens, the mayor of South Boston.
"I'm counting my blessings day in and day out. I'm not taking anything for granted," said Shelton.
Shelton said he spends most of his time playing the piano. He said he still drives every day and he feels like he's 20 years-old.
The town of South Boston will also celebrate his birthday a their council meeting at the end of August.