Ed Bray, 89-Year-Old World War II Veteran, Finally Learns To Read (VIDEO)

WATCH: World War II Veteran Learns To Read At 89

An elderly veteran who stormed the beach at Normandy during World War II has finally won his longest-running battle: a struggle with illiteracy.

Ed Bray, 89, lives alone in Cookson, Okla., reports CBS News. The veteran has two purple hearts, but his hidden secret -- that he cannot read or write -- is "the toughest thing that ever happened" to him.

For decades, Bray covered up this fact. A coworker helped him with documents in his job on an Air Force base, and his wife helped him at home until she died in 2009.

But last week, with the help of Northeastern State University professor Tobi Thompson, Bray read a book for the very first time. It was a grade-school biography of George Washington.

A 2003 U.S. Education Department survey of adult literacy estimates that over 10 percent of adults in America cannot read. Globally, the United Nations estimates over 775 million people are illiterate.

For the elderly, illiteracy compounds other problems in big ways. ABC News reported on a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine which said that adults who were unable to read their prescriptions were 50 percent more likely to succumb to disease than their literate peers.

Various organizations, including the New York Public Library, sponsor adult literacy programs. Success stories, like Ed Bray, are always inspiring.

In 2011, an elderly Connecticut man wrote a book two years after he wrote his name for the very first time. James Henry learned to read at 96 years old -- and at 98 he wrote his autobiography, "In A Fisherman's Language."

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