FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — When 99-year-old Sidney Walton was just a lad, he had the chance to meet some of the few remaining veterans still alive from the 1860s-era Civil War.
He skipped the opportunity — to his lasting regret.
With that long-ago lesson in mind, the World War II Army veteran is embarked on a 50-state excursion he has dubbed the No Regrets Tour. But this time around, it is he who is making himself available to meet with anyone wishing for a last-chance encounter with one of the dwindling number of World War II veterans still among us.
This week, Walton and his 62-year-old son, Paul, flew from Alaska to Hawaii, the 14th state in the tour. On Friday, Walton met with Hawaii Gov. David Ige, just as he had met with the governors of the previous 13 states.
Later the same day, he visited the World War II-themed Home of the Brave Museum in Honolulu.
‘I wanted to fight Hitler’
Walton enlisted in the Army in early 1941.
“I wanted to fight Hitler,” he said. He trained with a unit slated to fight in Europe, but he broke his ankle during a drill and didn’t go. After mending, he was assigned to India, where he served as a medic for the rest of the war.
The No Regrets Tour thus far has taken the father-son pair to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Florida and Alaska.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with the veteran for an hour, Paul Walton said.
“He reminded him of his own father, the late Mario Cuomo,” the younger Walton said.
When the father and son set out on the No Regrets Tour from their home in San Diego in the spring, they packed for a year, expecting to be on the road for that long.
The tour took a hiatus when Paul underwent cancer surgery, but with a positive prognosis, they set out again.
“We’re just going to keep going until we hit all 50 states,” Paul said.
They buy one-way tickets for each leg of the trip.
“Really, we can’t buy a round-trip ticket because we’ve already visited that spot,” the younger Walton said.
Say ‘hello’ in Waikiki
The choice of each next destination is dictated by the cheapest flight available.
While in Alaska, they found that Hawaii was the most affordable next stop.
The Hawaii stop might have been economical, but the visit comes during the hottest, steamiest time of year, and Friday’s humidity dehydrated the 99-year-old, who sipped on a vintage-style bottle of Coke at the museum and spoke little.
Walton is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump when he turns 100 on Feb. 11.
For the next few days, though, Walton and his son will stroll Waikiki Beach contemplating where they will fly to next and making the aged veteran available to all comers.
“We’re staying at the Marriott in Waikiki, and if anyone wants to meet [my father] personally, it’s this easy — I kid you not,” Paul said. Go to www.gosidneygo.com, which has their cell phone listed. “All they have to do is make a call, and we will meet them.”
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