World War II veteran Sidney Walton, 102, met Tuesday with Gov. Laura Kelly at the Capitol during a 50-state tour to raise awareness and financial support for veterans and frontline nurses. Kelly presented him with a Kansas flag. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Sidney Walton regretted missing an opportunity to personally meet some of the last surviving Civil War veterans at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.
Walton, 102, is in the final stage of a 50-state “No Regrets” tour to offer people a chance to visit with a veteran of World War II and to raise money for charity. The former U.S. Army corporal started the nationwide mission in 2018. Kansas was his 39th state on the U.S. road trip.
During a visit to the Kansas Capitol, Gov. Laura Kelly presented Walton a state flag as well as a coin decorated with an image of ruby red slippers worn by Dorothy in the film “Wizard of the Oz.” In response, Walton gave the governor a cap commemorating his whistle-stop visits of the state capitols.
Maj. Gen. David Weishaar, of the Kansas Air National guard, shared appreciation for Walton’s decision to join the U.S. Army eight months before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Walton became a medical technician in the 34th Infantry, 8th Division and was posted in India during the war. He remained in the Army for five years until the war’s end.
“Thank you very much for your continued service to the nation and remarkable service in World War II. May you continue that service to the nation throughout the rest of your life,” Weishaar said.
Walton, who was born in 1919 and lives in San Diego, said his World War II assignment took him far away from his preferred objective: “I joined the Army to fight Hitler.”
His current quest has assumed outlines of the campaign launched by Capt. Tom Moore, who was in the British Army during World War II and fought in Burma. Moore turned his 100th birthday into a project to raise contributions for charity, eventually generating $46 million for healthcare workers in England. He died in February.
Walton’s son, Paul, accompanies Walton on touring now dedicated to generating support for U.S. nurses engaged in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Three and a half years ago,” said Paul Walton, “we set upon this magnificent tour called the ‘No Regrets’ tour. Because all my dad’s life I always heard that he regretted one thing. He had one regret.”
Turning to his dad, he asked: “You regret you did not meet Civil War veterans when you were young? If you could go back in time could you meet them?”
“Yes, right,” said Walton, who planned to spend the night in Wichita before heading to Oklahoma City to meet Friday with Oklahoma’s governor.
In February 2020, Walton was among four surviving World War II veterans who participated in the coin flip for Super Bowl LIV, a game won by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Paul Walton said his father was more frail than when they embarked on the 50-state journey, but each day of the tour was a blessing. The COVID-19 pandemic reduced opportunities to fly to state capitol cities, compelling them to travel in a vehicle elaborately decorated with signage noting their task.
“We are going to accomplish this mission,” he said. “Delaware, known as the first state, is going to be our last state.”
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