The Week — Richard Overton

Meet America’s oldest living veteran, october 2017.

When Richard Overton was released from the hospital after a bout of pneumonia in August, the Austin community rallied around him. Cards and gifts poured in, and it seemed the entire city was monitoring his progress and celebrating his return home.

After all, Overton is 111 years old, and it’s not every day that the oldest living veteran in the country seems to beat everything that’s thrown his way.

Overton was born in 1906 to James and Elizabeth Overton, in the town of St. Mary’s Colony, a black farming community east of Austin. Founded shortly after emancipation by freed slaves, the town’s population dwindled from a high of 300. Lack of irrigation made farming the dry land there a hard life.

He joined the U.S. Army on Sept. 3, 1940 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and served during World War II in the Pacific Theater with the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion, arriving by ship to Pearl Harbor just after it was bombed. Smoke still filled the sky as his segregated black battalion entered the war. His unit also arrived in Iwo Jima days after the main battle there.

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