I recently read a great story about the oldest living American veteran. And then it made me think about my brother, Wieland, who gave his life in Vietnam 43 years ago.
Last Friday, Fox News reported that Richard Arvine Overton, a World War II Army veteran, is commemorating his 107th Memorial Day from the front porch of his Texas home that he built after coming home from World War II.
Overton was born on May, 11, 1906, the same year as the big San Francisco earthquake. He will shortly become a supercentenarian – someone who is aged 110 or older, an achievement that roughly only 200-350 people in the entire world obtain. He married twice over nearly 11 decades on earth, but never had any children.
But if you think sitting on his porch is all Overton does to bide his time, consider that Overton just traveled to Washington, D.C., on May 17 to see the World War II Memorial. (His trip was provided by Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization that gives veterans free trips to memorials erected in their honor.) He served in the South Pacific from 1942 through 1945, with time also spent in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima.
Regarding his recent trip to Washington, Overton told Fox News, “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.” He added, “I got good health and I don’t take any medicine.”
So what’s Overton’s century-plus longevity secret?
I doubt that it’s his dozen-a-day cigar habit or splash of whiskey in his morning coffee.
He credits his old age to taking daily aspirin and keeping his stress low. And he keeps his body moving.
He said, “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.”
Beyond these things, Overton maintains his spiritual health by faithfully going to church every week.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell told FoxNews.com, “I’ve spoken with Mr. Overton on a few different occasions, and admire his spirit for life and his country. He is truly one of our unsung heroes, and we are privileged that he calls Austin his home.”
I join Mayor Leffingwell and millions of other Americans each Memorial Day to salute all of America’s heroes, like Richard Overton. And I know Overton joins us in particularly giving thanks for the freedom fighters who sacrificed everything for our country, including my dear brother, Wieland, who paid the ultimate price in Vietnam on June 3, 1970.
My father fought in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge. I served four years in the Air Force in South Korea, and my brother Aaron served in the Army there, too. And our brother, Wieland, was killed in action in Vietnam when he walked point alone and drew out enemy fire so that others in his platoon could fight their way out to freedom. Many souls were saved on that day because of my brother’s bravery. (My mom wrote a chapter on each of us, and for the first time tells Wieland’s war story at length in her new autobiography, “Acts of Kindness: My Story,” available only at ChuckNorris.com.)
The numbers of those who sacrificed their lives in major wars since the Revolution include:
Like so many other armed forces, Overton witnessed many of his military friends die in the line of duty during World War II. Then through the years, he had to say goodbye to a host of others.
Overton said last week, “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.”
Though I understand Overton’s sentiments about his fallen comrades, not a single veteran should ever feel alone because he or she should be surrounded always by those who admire them.
On behalf of millions of Americans, my wife, Gena, and I salute Richard Overton and all of America’s veterans, pray for those active in service, and humbly bow in thanks for our fallen heroes who gave their lives that we might live ours.
(Please, mark your calendars on Sept. 12 and participate in FreedomDayUSA.com, when businesses across the country will show their appreciation to U.S. servicemen and women by providing free goods and services to them and their immediate families.)