Oldest World War II Veteran

November 12, 2013 by  

Oldest World War II Veteran, President Obama today paid special tribute to an American treasure: the oldest known surviving veteran of World War II, Richard Overton.

At a mid-morning Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Obama singled out the 107-year-old Overton – who was in attendance – as a remarkable example of national service and sacrifice.

“He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, ‘I only got out of there by the grace of God,’” Obama told a crowd of 4,000 veterans and guests gathered in the Memorial Amphitheater.

Obama recounted how the African-American Texas native, who volunteered for the Army in his 30s, returned home from war to a “nation bitterly divided by race” and one that did not always afford the support and respect that has now become a norm.

“He carried on and lived his life with honor and dignity. He built his wife a house with his own two hands,” Obama said.

Seventy years later, Overton is still living in the same house, although his wife passed two decades ago. He told USA Today in an interview that he enjoys “a tablespoon” of whiskey in his coffee each morning and smokes a dozen cigars a day. He also has an 89-year-old “lady friend.”

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