By Talia Avakian
April 12, 2018
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Richard Overton, the country’s oldest World War II veteran and possibly the oldest man in America, has seen many things in his 111 years, but over the weekend, he got to take his first flight in a private jet.

On Saturday, April 7, Austin businessman Robert F. Smith flew Overton on his private jet to Washington D.C, where he was given a private tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Smith, who has donated some $20 million to the museum and is a well-known philanthropist, was visiting Overton earlier that week when the vet mentioned he’d like to see the museum one day. Smith arranged a flight over to the museum the next day, according to The Washington Post, giving him the ultimate early 112th birthday present.

The visit was a memorable one for Overton, whose grandfather was a slave before gaining freedom in Tennessee and eventually settling in Texas.

According to The Washington Post, former U.S. secretary of state and retired four-star general Colin L. Powell called Overton to welcome him to the museum. Overton perused the historic collection that includes everything from Harriet Tubman’s shawl and Chuck Berry’s 1973 Cadillac to the Emancipation Proclamation and James Baldwin’s U.S. passport.

Volma Overton, Richard's cousin, attributed his long life to his love of cigars and whiskey, telling the Agence France-Presse that Overton smokes up to 15 cigars each day.

Overton, who turns 112 on May 11 and is also believed to be the third oldest man in the world, decided to give up attending college to enlist in the U.S. Army during WWII, serving in the Pacific Theater and taking part in the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion, where he served as base security, on burial detail, and as a Jeep driver for a lieutenant.

In 2016, Volma started a GoFundMe campaign for his cousin, asking for help raising funds to allow Richard to continue living in his own home in Austin, Texas, as opposed to a nursing home. 

So far, the campaign has raised close to half of its goal. 

Above all else, the almost-112-year-old attributes his health to focusing on living instead of death, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs blog, whether he’s trimming his trees, cleaning his driveway, or hopping onboard a private jet.

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