Marine Vet, 104, Gets ‘Drive-By' Birthday Party Surprise

When 104-year-old Marine Veteran Ruth Gallivan found out that the coronavirus pandemic would force her to cancel her 104th birthday parties, she was a bit disappointed. Honor Flight San Diego stepped in with a unique idea

Ruth Gallivan, 104, waves to the crowd who surprised her with a "drive by" birthday party.
Honor Flight San Diego

Parties are difficult to plan amid a public health order that prevents gatherings and keeps people at least six feet apart. But that didn't stop Honor Flight San Diego from hosting a different kind of "surprise party" for a special World War II Marine veteran's 104th birthday.

Ruth Gallivan is likely the oldest female Marine veteran in the state of California and that alone is something to celebrate. When she found out that the coronavirus pandemic would force her to cancel her 104th birthday parties (yes, parties), she was a bit disappointed.

Family friends came up with an idea to send birthday wishes to her in the form of cards and called on the non-profit Honor Flight San Diego for help. Instead, the non-profit group that typically provides trips to Washington, D.C. for senior veterans took it a step further and came up with a fun way to surprise Gallivan while adhering to social distancing rules.

On April 1, about two dozen decorated vehicles drove past Gallivan's Serra Mesa home honking and cheering until the Marine came outside to witness the spectacle.

She sat in a chair on her front porch as professional trumpeter Corey Wickline then led the group to sing "Happy Birthday," "God Bless America," and the Marine Corps Hymn.

Gallivan was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar at a time when no women were allowed in the barracks, according to Honor Flight San Diego. She was tasked with finding a place for women to be stationed.

When she left the Marine Corps in 1946, she decided to make her roots in San Diego.


The unique birthday surprise wasn't the only way Gallivan was being honored for her 104 years. The Women Marines Association was collecting birthday cards that would be personally delivered to Gallivan.

Anyone wishing to send a card can address them to:
WMA San Diego County Chapter
ATTN: Ruth Gallian
PO Box 87089
San Diego, Calif 92138

Watch the surprise on the Honor Flight San Diego Facebook page here.

Contact Us