Daniel Doherty

Richard Arvine Overton, who is 107-years-old and believed to be the oldest living American veteran, plans to spend his Memorial Day as he always does: smoking cigars on his front porch (!) and drinking a little bit of whiskey (via Fox News):

Overton, who is believed to be the nation's oldest veteran, told FoxNews.com he’ll likely spend the day on the porch of his East Austin home with a cigar nestled in his right hand, perhaps with a cup of whiskey-stiffened coffee nearby.

“I don’t know, some people might do something for me, but I’ll be glad just to sit down and rest,” the Army veteran said during a phone interview. “I’m no young man no more.”

Overton, who was born on May, 11, 1906, in Texas’ Bastrop County, has gotten used to being the center of attention of late. In addition to being formally recognized by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell on May 9, Overton traveled to Washington, D.C., on May 17 as part of Honor Flight, a nonprofit group that transports veterans free of charge to memorials dedicated to their service. Despite serving in the South Pacific from 1942 through 1945, including stops in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima to name a few, it was Overton’s first time in the 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.”

Of course, it’s impossible to know with absolute certainty if Overton is in fact the oldest living American veteran – but it’s probably a fair assumption, which is why the city of Austin, Texas had no qualms whatsoever of honoring him as such:

Among U.S. veterans, it’s extremely difficult — if not 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. But that didn’t stop the city of Austin from recognizing him as the oldest veteran in Texas during his birthday proclamation at City Hall. Mayor Leffingwell, in a statement to FoxNews.com, said Austin is “honored” to call Overton one of its own.

“I’ve spoken with Mr. Overton on a few different occasions, and admire his spirit for life and his country,” the statement read. “He is truly one of our unsung heroes and we are privileged that he calls Austin his home.”

Overton, for his part, believes he’s the oldest veteran in the country, although he said he feels decades younger and doesn’t really embrace the part. He wishes he could spend a few hours this Memorial Day reliving war stories with fellow veterans, but he’s outlived most — if not all — of them.

It’s no secret that the heroes who fought overseas during World War II are getting older and many are no longer with us. The eyes of the world – to borrow a line from General Dwight Eisenhower – were upon them, and at great personal risk they defended America in its greatest hour of need. Words cannot adequately express, of course, the debt future generations owe to the “Greatest Generation,” but I would nevertheless like to say thank you to all U.S. service members who fought (and died) during the Second World War. It’s important to remember that more than 400,000 soldiers never came home – and many, in fact, are still buried over there – and thus it is our solemn duty as grateful citizens to remember what they gave their lives for. It is the least we can do.

This weekend, then, let us pray that our Heavenly Father will bless all American veterans and their families – and that we, as a nation, will never forget the sacrifices they laid – as Lincoln once phrased it – “upon the alter of freedom.”


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography