SIDNEY — Before Wednesday, the Walton family had never heard of Sidney, Ohio. When they departed Dayton, they planned no more stops on their No Regrets Tour until stopping for the night in Detroit. That’s when Paul Walton, Sidney Walton’s son, saw the sign on Interstate 75, and telephoned Sidney’s City Hall.
Mayor Mike Barhorst took the call, and with the procession already at the nine-mile marker, had City Clerk Kari Egbert make calls to the Sidney Daily News, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, and Shelby County Veterans Services so that there would be at least a small group to welcome United States Army World War II veteran Sidney Walton to the city of Sidney.
The mayor literally grabbed a paperweight and a couple of lapel pins before making his way downstairs and out the front door when the lead Ohio State Highway Patrol cruiser turned the corner from Walnut Avenue onto Poplar Street, sirens blaring.
Sidney Walton was born Feb. 11, 1919, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He joined the Army to fight Hitler and wanted desperately to fight in Europe. An unfortunate training accident kept him from accompanying his unit to Europe. Once he recovered, he ended up fighting in the China-India-Burma theatre.
Upon his discharge from the Army, he studied at Yale University and became a geology professor, teaching at both Duke University and North Carolina State University during his career. He married school teacher Rena Bell in 1954.
Walton eventually took a job at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, living in Clairemont, San Diego, until the death of his wife in 1982. He subsequently moved to Rancho Bernardo.
In April 2018, he set out on a “No Regrets” tour with the goal of meeting the president of the United States and the governors of all 50 states. By July 2019, he had met 23 governors and President Donald Trump.
Nine days ago, he was meeting with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. Walton’s son Paul asked the governor what he thought about the World War II veteran setting out at the head of a 75 vehicle procession on a 775 mile trip from Atlanta to Lansing, Michigan, commemorating the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.
“The governor thought it was a grand idea,” Paul Walton stated, “and promised if we undertook the trip, he’d see us off. Sure enough, he was outside the state capitol waving as we departed the next day.”
“This is really a huge “I love you to my dad’,” Walton said. “It’s also my way of saying thanks to the Greatest Generation. The No Regrets tour was so-named because my dad regrets missing an opportunity he once had to meet some of the last Civil War veterans. He wants to make sure that no one living today misses an opportunity to meet a World War II veteran.”
Of the more than 16,000,000 who served in World War II, fewer than 300,000 remain alive today. That number is rapidly decreasing as about 348 die each day.
Paul Walton noted that they have been escorted by the state patrol through each state. Ohio’s procession included 12 motorcycles and two patrol cars.
“The call was really quite a surprise,” Barhorst said. “Had I had just a bit more time, I could have had the high school band or choir at City Hall to welcome them. Even so, they were pleased to be able to take a break and simply take photos in front of the city of Sidney sign at City Hall.”
Donations have helped Sidney make it more than half-way through his tour. Those wishing to contribute can send their contributions via PayPal or GoFundMe.