A man respected as the oldest known American World War II veteran has finally passed away. Richard Overton was 112-years-old when he died after a recent bout with pneumonia. Although he was released from the hospital earlier this week, the illness took its toll on the man who was the oldest living survivor of the last great World War.
Overton enlisted in the Army 1940 at the age of 34. He was born in Bastrop County in 1906 and the battalion he was in was all black engineers. KUT's Audrey McGlinchy interviewed Overton in 2015. He told her, "Uncle Sam called me in, and I went there and I had to do it. He not only was a part of the war, but he served in some of the most historic battles including Pearl Harbor, the Pacific theater at Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
United States Army
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When World War II was finally over and the Axis was defeated, Overton returned to his home in Texas where he had a job waiting for him at a furniture company. "I didn't get no scratch on me," Overton said in an interview with NPR. "I'm glad I'm back home, and I'm glad I didn't get like some of the others. Some got their arms off. Some got their leg off. Some lost their body. Some lost their soul."
"I was sure lucky,"
Overton has lived in the same home since 1945 which he built in East Austin after the war. The home was renovated by Meals on Wheels Central Texas and the Home Depot Foundation so that he could continue living in his home. The street which his home is built on was named in his honor on his birthday in 2017.
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President Obama invited Overton to Washington D.C. in 2013 for Veterans Day. He accepted and had breakfast with the president and Vice President Joe Biden. After breakfast, Overton attended the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery where he received a standing ovation after Obama pointed him out from the crowd.
When McGlinchy asked Overton what meeting Obama was like, he said, "He's a human, just another human. I had a nice time with him." Overton has smoked a cigar and drank whiskey every day for decades. "Well, I always drink a little bit," he said. "That's kept me alive, that's why I'm living so long. Makes you happier. It's the same as medicine if you take it right."
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