The two oldest veterans in America, both 107, are set to meet in Texas for the first time on Saturday and share World War II stories to mark the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor
Richard Overton and Elmer Hill were not in Hawaii the day of the attack on December 7, 1941, but passed through the Navy base on their way to war in the Pacific.
They went on to survive kamikaze fighters and grueling combat battles in the Pacific islands against the Japanese, and then came home to settle down in separate parts of Texas.
"I was just glad to be back home at the end,” Hill told Stars & Stripes. “You had to dodge, duck, shoot and run. It was no fun.”
Overton is especially looking forward to sitting down with Hill because the comrades he fought side by side with have all passed on.
“I kept in touch with a lot of the guys I served with after we came home,” he said. “But they’re all gone now.”
Overton was honored by President Barack Obama during a ceremony last month paying tribute to veterans at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
The two vets will be having lunch with the mayor of Austin, Texas. The staff at Emeritus Senior Living, where Hill lives, have rented a limo to drive them to the luncheon, which is expected to draw a large crowd wanting to honor the men for their service to the country.
Overton and Hill, who served in the Army and the Navy respectively, were both sent to segregated units during the war because blacks weren’t allowed assignments beside whites until after World War II ended.
There are no major national memorials planned to mark the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, although park service officials at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center are expecting a larger crowd than usual.
The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that there are only about one million living World War II veterans left, and only 3,000 veterans remain out of the 84,000 military personnel who survived the Pearl Harbor attack.
The Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors still hold a convention every two years, but now it's attended primarily by the children of survivors. Carol Gladys, secretary of the organization's Ohio chapter, sends out thank you cards to the survivors every year.
"That’s how we’re trying to make sure the memory of what happened lives on,” she said.
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