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Oldest World War II Vet, 107-Year-Old From Austin, Honored By President Obama

Texas Tribune
Richard Overton, who's 107 years old, was honored earlier by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. On Veterans Day, Overton was honored by President Obama.

An Austin man is believed to be the nation’s oldest World War II veteran – and President Barack Obama paid tribute to him today, Veterans Day.

Richard Overton, who's 107 years old, was among the veterans gathered at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Obama said Overton was "one American veteran, living proud and strong in the land he helped keep free."

USA Today has more details on Overton:

A member of the Army's 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, Overton was in his 30s when he volunteered for service in 1942 and saw combat while "island hopping" in the Pacific with an all-black unit, says Allen Bergeron, chairman of Honor Flight Austin, the Texas group that brings local veterans to Washington to tour the monuments. It was Bergeron's group that arranged for Overton's return trip to Washington. … Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell calls Overton "a regular guy and an extraordinary gentleman. His story is the story of veterans everywhere who leave their peaceful lives to fight in far-off lands for our future." On Sunday afternoon at Reagan National Airport, Overton got a hero's reception when airport personnel announced his arrival. The crowd surprised Overton, sitting in a wheelchair, who said, "I didn't think I was worth that much."

KUT, the public radio station in Austin, has more from today’s events:

This morning, Overton participated in a breakfast with the president and vice president honoring American veterans. Later, he attended the president’s speech at Arlington National Cemetery, where he was the subject of President Obama’s remarks. “Earlier this year, the great folks at Honor Flight Austin brought Richard to Washington D.C. for the first time,” Obama said. “And he and his fellow veterans paid their respects at the World War II memorial. And then they visited the memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. And as Richard sat in a wheelchair beneath that great marble statue, he wept. And the crowd that gathered around him wept too – to see one of the oldest living veterans of World War II bear witness to a day, to the progress of a nation he though might never come.”

Here's video of the president's remarks:

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.