One might assume that a 100-year-old World War II veteran’s glory days are far behind in the rearview mirror. But Sidney Walton is in the midst of a glorious mission few at his age would even consider.
Walton is nearly halfway through a quest to visit every governor in the U.S. — racking up a visit with California Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sacramento Monday as he attempts to call attention to the diminishing number of living veterans from World War II.
"I’m not Schwarzenegger, which is more interesting," Newsom said, introducing himself to the veteran during a brief visit in the state capitol.
"He’s out to meet as many people that would love to meet a World War II veteran before it’s too late," said son Paul Walton, who does most of the talking for his dad.
Over the last year, the elder Walton has met with 23 governors, from Rhode Island to New York to Hawaii to South Carolina to Oregon. Paul said the pair hopscotch states depending on which governors are available.
The tour is dubbed the Go Sidney No Regrets tour — Paul said his dad long-regretted missing an opportunity to meet Civil War veterans when he was young and now wants to give others a chance to meet a surviving World War II veteran.
"People come up to him constantly thanking him for his service, thanking him for saving the country," Paul said in the lobby of his Sacramento hotel as well-wishers visited with his dad.
In June, the Waltons made the trek to Normandy where Sidney shared a stage with President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron in marking the 75th anniversary of the seaborne invasion of D-Day. He visited the beach where the invasion took place and posed for photos with dozens of military members.
Walton’s own wartime experience started nine months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor when he enlisted in the Army. But the night before his unit was set to ship out to what would ultimately become the Battle of the Bulge, Walton stepped in a fox hole and broke his ankle. The members of his unit left without him, and Walton never heard from them again — assuming they were lost in the bloody battle.
"I think I’m lucky," said Sidney, who ended up taking part in formidable allied fighting in India.
When his son posed the question of his father’s thoughts on war, Sidney replied, "Anytime, it’s horrible."
Although wheelchair-bound, his memory faded and speaking difficult, the elderly San Diego man appears to be enjoying his late life adventure across the U.S. and beyond. When Paul pointed out there were still 27 more states to tackle, his father quickly answered, "Sounds great!"
Paul said he quit his own job seven years ago to take care full-time of his father. But instead of sliding into easy chairs, the men appear to be in the midst of an epic father-son road trip.
"He’s willing to get on a plane, he’s willing to get on a choo-choo train and he’s willing to get in a car," Paul said. "Whatever it takes to spread this wonderful message."