There are millions upon millions of veterans in the annals of American history – men and women who have served the country and the cause of freedom proudly and with distinction. Sometimes it was fate that was cast on them, other times it was greatness thrust upon them, and other times it was their choices in service and life that set them apart. There are many stories of our Veterans. These are but three of them.
Heroes, all of them.
Oldest Living US Veteran, age 108, credits drinking whiskey and smoking a dozen cigars every day for his long life.
Richard Overton, the oldest living United States veteran at 108 years old, credits his longevity to two things. First there’s his ‘medicine’ – the tablespoon of whiskey he adds to his morning coffee, which he claims keeps his muscles tender. Then there’s the dozen or so cigars he smokes – but doesn’t inhale – everyday.
Overton was at the center of last year’s Veterans Day parade in Arlington – accepting a celebratory box of beloved cigars during a standing ovation – and appeared again this year at the parade near his home in Austin, Texas.
Overton, was born in Bastrop County, served in the Army during World War II. He served in the South Pacific from 1942 to 45. He sold furniture in Austin after the war and later worked for the state Treasurer’s Office. He still drives and walks without a cane.
During a television interview last March, he told a reporter that he doesn’t take medicine other than aspirin. And of course his morning whiskey. The key to living to his age, he said, is simply ‘staying out of trouble’.
More than 100 people packed a conference room at the Stephen F. Austin building in downtown Austin last November for a ceremony honoring Overton and Ken Wallingford, who spent 10 months in a tiger cage as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
The event was overseen by the General Land Office and the Veterans Land Board.
‘I’ve gotten so many letters and so many thank-yous and I enjoy every bit of it, but I’m still going to enjoy some more,’ said Overton.
Though widowed 22 years ago he still lives in the house he built in Texas after the end of the war. Overton was in his 30s when he volunteered in 1942 and saw action in the Pacific with the Army’s 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion. He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering as well as Okinawa and at Iwo Jima.
Overton still rakes his own lawn and drives ladies in his neighborhood to church every Sunday in his old Ford pickup, believing in staying active as much as possible.
He said that if there’s leaves to rake or a driveway to clean, he’s going to go out and do it. But while he is a proud returned serviceman, Overton said we should be careful about being proud of war.
“War’s nothing to be into,” he told USA Today last year. “You don’t want to go into the war if you don’t have to. But I had to go. I enjoyed it after I’d went and come back, but I didn’t enjoy it when was over there. I had to do things I didn’t want to do.”
WWII Veteran, 98, Dons Uniform For Final Salute
GLENVILLE, NEW YORK — On Veterans Day, Justus Belfield donned his Army uniform one more time, even though he was too weak to leave his bed at an upstate New York nursing home.
The 98-year-old World War II veteran died the next day.
The Daily Gazette of Schenectady reports that Belfield had worn his uniform every Veterans Day since he and his wife moved into Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Glenville, outside Albany, several years ago. On Tuesday, the former master sergeant wasn’t able to get out of bed to participate in the facility’s Veterans Day festivities, so he had the staff dress him in his uniform.
A photograph accompanying the newspaper’s story published Friday shows Belfield saluting while lying in bed. The nursing home staff said he died early Wednesday morning.
Belfield, originally from Utica, spent 16 years in the Army, including a stint in Europe where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He also served during the Korean War when he worked as a recruiter in Syracuse. Belfield told the newspaper last year that he never regretted serving in the military.
“It was a good thing to do,” he said in the interview on Veterans Day last year. “I loved it because it was my country. It’s still my country.”
Barbara Bradt, activities director at the nursing home, said Belfield had “such a spark for life.”
“He taught me no matter how old you are, you keep going, you put a smile on your face and you just appreciate every day because that’s what he did.” She said.
Belfield and his wife, Lillian, have six children, 18 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.
He was buried Friday with military honors at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.
The WWII Vet Who Found Hitler’s Top Hat
ALBANY, NEW YORK — Richard Marowitz was just a day removed from witnessing the horrors of Dachau when he found a top hat on a shelf in a closet in Adolf Hitler’s Munich apartment.
Still furious over the gruesome sights he had seen at the nearby Nazi concentration camp, the 19-year-old self-described “skinny Jewish kid” from New York threw the black silk hat on the floor, jumped off the chair he had used to reach the item and stomped Hitler’s formal headwear until it was flat.
“I swear to this day I could see his face in it,” Marowitz told The Associated Press in a 2001 interview, recalling how he “smashed the hell out of it.”
Marowitz was a 19-year-old Army scout on April 30, 1945, when he found a black silk top hat with the initials “A.H.” on the lining while searching Hitler’s apartment in Munich.
Marowitz, who brought the souvenir back to New York after World War II ended, died August 2014 at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Albany at the age of 88. His son, Larry Marowitz, told The Associated Press on Friday that his father passed away after battling cancer and dementia. His death was first reported by The Times Union of Albany.