WWII veteran who traveled the country on ‘No Regrets’ tour dies at 102
Longtime San Diego area resident visited 40 states in three years.
Sidney Walton, an Army infantryman who enlisted nine months before the attack on Pearl Harbor and in his final years embarked on a cross-country tour to raise awareness of the shrinking number of World War II veterans, died Saturday in Santa Monica at age 102.
Accompanied by his son, Walton set out three years ago to meet the governors of all 50 states on what he called the “No Regrets” tour. Walton made it to 40, with the most recent coming just days before he died when he met with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt.
“He was undaunted,” said son Paul Walton. “Nothing could keep my father down.”
Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, the Veterans Administration in May reported there are little more than 325,000 still living.
During his travels, Walton met not only governors but current and former presidents, global leaders, celebrities and everyday people, telling them of his time serving in the China-Burma-India theater during the war. His one-man tour drew national media attention.
“My dad was a patriot,” Paul said. “He joined the Army specifically to fight Hitler. He didn’t have to. No one drafted him.”
Born Feb. 11, 1919, Walton lived a full life but there were times he thought back on a missed opportunity: He passed on a chance in 1939 to meet a group of aging Civil War veterans who gathered at the World’s Fair in his hometown of New York City.
Walton mentioned that regret numerous times to his children over the years, and on his 99th birthday his son made a suggestion.
“I said, ‘How would you like to go on tour across the country, meet every governor in every state and meet people along the way and give each and every one of them an opportunity to meet a World War II veteran before it’s too late?’” Paul recalled. “He said, ‘Son, I’m up for that.’”
Thus, the “No Regrets” tour was born. Within two months, Walton had met the first governor on the tour — Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo.
Along the way, the veteran had photos snapped with future president Joe Biden, Bob Dole, Jeff Bezos, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, John Legend and Prince Harry. Walton also took part in the coin flip at the Kansas City Chiefs-San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl in February 2020.
One of Walton’s most memorable visits came in New Orleans, when he spent 20 minutes with the Dalai Lama, who, the younger Walton said, asked the former corporal what kind of weapon he carried during his tour of duty. For the record, it was a Winchester rifle.
“This was not just to reward my father for his brave service that a lot of World War II veterans never received,” Paul said. “But this is to remind all Americans of the service and the sacrifices they made so we can all be here to enjoy our freedoms.”
The elder Walton visited the Oval Office in April 2019 with then-President Donald Trump, who invited the veteran to attend the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France. Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron chatted with Sidney during the proceedings.
Paul Walton called the tour “a symbol of unity” for the country. “This is not a Republican campaign, it’s not a Democrat campaign, it’s not an independent campaign,” he said. “It’s an American campaign.”
After five years in the Army, Walton attended graduate school at Yale, married Rena Bell in 1954, taught geology at Duke University and North Carolina State University and moved his family to San Diego, where he worked as a civilian at North Island Naval Air Station.
After his wife died of cancer in 1982, Walton retired to Rancho Bernardo. Besides Paul, he is survived by two daughters, Judy Roanne and Ellie Lenore.
“This is the greatest country in the world,” he told the Rancho Bernardo News Journal in a 2019 interview. “I’m very proud to be an American.”
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