99-year-old World War II veteran Sidney Walton rolled into Tallahassee today to meet with Gov. Rick Scott as part of a nationwide tour where he hopes to meet with the governors of all 50 states before his 100th birthday.
“This is an opportunity for my dad, at 99 years old, to meet anyone who would like to meet a WWII veteran while they are still alive,” said Sidney’s son, Paul Walton.
His tour is to raise awareness about the sacrifices made by the 16 million Americans who served in WW II. The elderly WW II veterans are dying at a rate of 362 per day. Sidney and Paul – who is his father’s caretaker – are traveling far and wide from their home in San Diego, California. So far, Sidney has met with governors from Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois. Today, he added Florida to the list, meeting with Scott at the Governor’s Mansion. He hopes to cap off his tour at the White House for his 100th birthday in February. You can track his progress at GoSidneyGo.com.
Walton joined the U.S. Army in 1941, nine months before the Japanese attacked Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor. Before he joined the Army, Walton missed a chance to meet some of the last few remaining Civil War veterans, who had gathered in New York City’s Central Park – and he’s regretted it his whole life.
Sidney was born on Feb.11, 1919 in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He grew up in Brooklyn and the Bronx, then enlisted in the United States Army in 1941. He served a total of five years in the Chinese-Burma-India Theater. After the war ended, he returned to college, graduating in geology from Virginia Tech, and later teaching at Duke and NC State.
When meeting with the Illinois governor, a staffer said something that resonated with the Walton family.
“We’ve got to connect with our past,” Paul Walton remembers the aide saying, “Before it’s too late.”