Our country’s veterans are living, breathing history—and luckily there’s a state program to preserve their message.
Voices of Veterans aims to protect the legacy of veterans all over Texas. Thursday, officials with the program interviewed the nation’s oldest surviving World War II serviceman, Richard Overton of East Austin.
Overton is 107 years old, and doesn’t think twice about partaking in some of society’s indulgences. You can find him enjoying 12 cigars a day and a nice bourbon.
"I just drink any kind of whiskey,” he said. “I don't care."
Overton was drafted for service in his mid 30s. He was old by military draft standards.
"Uncle Sam says, when he gets his hand on you, 'You got to go,'" he said. "You wouldn't want to go through what I went through, but you had to go through it."
The multi-tour veteran is one of the first 200 or so Texans to go on record with the Voices of Veterans oral history program.
"Every veteran has a story to tell and I have learned that to be true,” program coordinator James Crabtree said. “Regardless of where they have served, when they served, what branch of service they were in, whether it was peace time or war time."
For Pacific-theatre vet Overton, he said the secret of surviving combat and living beyond 100 is not found in habits, diet or finances.
"I haven't gotten a dime from you or the others,” he said. “So God is keeping me living."
Overton's oral history will be stored in the Office of Veterans Records at the Texas General Land office in downtown Austin.