Today marks Richard Arvine Overton’s 107th Memorial Day. Believed to be the nation’s oldest veteran, Overton saw many of his fellow soldiers fall in the line of duty in World War II and even more die over the following decades. He plans to spend a quiet day at his Texas home where he has lived since he returned from WW II.Overton told Fox News, “I don’t know, some people might do something for me, but I’ll be glad just to sit down and rest. I’m no young man no more.”
Overton has received much attention of late. He was recognized by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell on May 9 and traveled to Washington, D.C., on May 17 as part of Honor Flight. Though he served in the South Pacific from 1942 through 1945, including stops in Hawaii, Guam, Palau, and Iwo Jima to name a few, it was the first time he had visited his nation’s capital.
“I was really honored when I got there,” Overton said of his visit to the World War II Memorial. “There were so many people, it was up in the thousands. And we danced and we jumped … them people tickled me to death. It made me happy as can be.I was very, very happy. At my age and my strength, I’m able to stand up and do anything. My mind is good, so I’m able to do what I want. I got good health and I don’t take any medicine. I also stay busy around the yards, I trim trees, help with the horses. The driveways get dirty, so I clean them. I do something to keep myself moving. I don’t watch television.”
Overton smokes up to 12 cigars a day and likes a little whiskey in his morning coffee. He was married twice but never fathered any children, and he goes to church every Sunday.
It’s nearly impossible to confirm Overton’s place as the oldest living former soldier since just roughly 9 million of the nation’s 22 million vets are registered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. However, Overton, for his part, believes he’s the oldest veteran in the country, although he said he feels decades younger.
If he could do anything he wanted today, he would relive war stories with fellow veterans, but he’s outlived most — if not all — of them.
“I know I had someone from my platoon until recently, but he passed so now I don’t have anyone that I know, so I feel lonesome by myself sometimes. I would love to ask some of them some questions, but nobody is here. Everybody’s passed.”
Think about our veterans, dead and living, today. Remember what they sacrificed for you. Enjoy your holiday, have a cookout with your friends, spend some time with your family, but please don’t forget that generations of soldiers died for your freedoms.