FULLERTON (CBSLA) — It was Duane Sherman’s big day, and even though he didn’t want it to be a big deal, the world just couldn’t stop singing his praises.

“I get emotional about it,” the World War II veteran told CBS2’s Nicole Comstock. “A lot of my old buddies are gone.”

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And without those friends to send him birthday cards, Sherman said he didn’t feel much like celebrating his 96th year on this planet.

“He doesn’t get any mail other than a bill,” said Sue Morse, Sherman’s daughter.

So four weeks ago, she told CBSLA how much it would mean for people to drop a little something in the mailbox for her dad.

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“Boy, we changed that, didn’t we?” she told us Sunday.

Sherman has now received about 50,000 birthday cards, mailed from all 50 states as well as ten countries across the globe. It’s far more than what he expected – about “half a dozen,” he laughs.

Ten U.S. Navy chiefs from San Diego also visited Sherman for his birthday Sunday. They heard his firsthand account of how he got his Purple Heart, by surviving a fiery battle in the Philippines when a kamikaze plane hit his ship.

“It’s very humbling and very awesome to see,” senior Navy chief Jerry Green told us.

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The younger veterans wanted to be present for Duane to remind him that his service was something special – and that he still has friends who care about him.