Dad & Car 102.png

In 2018, Sidney Walton and his son Paul embarked on an ambitious plan to visit with every governor in the country.

Sidney Walton didn’t want any regrets — and he didn’t want anyone else to have them when it came to honoring World War II veterans.

The 102-year-old U.S. Army veteran sought to draw the nation’s attention to the ever-dwindling number of World War II veterans still living. His hope was people might want to meet some of them or remember them. So, in 2018, he and his son Paul embarked on an ambitious plan to visit with every governor in the country.

Sidney Walton managed to hit 40 out of 50 states before his death in October in a Santa Monica, Calif., hospital. Now, Paul Walton intends to finish the journey, starting with the governor who was next on his father’s list: Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico.

“I’m going to keep his legacy going and make it to the rest of the 50 states,” Paul Walton said by phone from California Wednesday. His dad’s 2020 Buick Enclave is still in Oklahoma City, where in late September Sidney Walton met Gov. Kevin Stitt — Walton’s last official stop before his death.

A friend of Paul Walton’s is going to fly to Oklahoma City, pick up the car and drive it to Albuquerque. Paul will fly into Albuquerque and join his friend Thursday, and the pair will drive to Santa Fe in hopes of meeting Lujan Grisham.

Nora Meyers Sackett, spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham, said her office is in touch with Paul Walton and is working to see if the governor can meet with him.

Walton said if all goes well, he’ll eventually move on to Colorado, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.

World War II vets are dying at a rate of 234 a day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which estimated less than a quarter of the 16 million American veterans who served in World War II are still living. There are just over 2,300 World War II veterans remaining in New Mexico.

Paul Walton said it’s not easy to find those men and women for a number of reasons, including their age. Most are likely in their 90s, if not older. Many are in assisted living facilities.

“They’re just going quickly,” he said.

He said his father, who was born on the lower east side of New York City in April 1919, always expressed regret that he did not take the opportunity to meet Civil War veterans who attended the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. Existing photos show some of those veterans viewing 1939-era military combat vehicles.

“So we said, ‘What if went around and made up for that regret and give everybody the opportunity to meet you, a World War II veteran?’ ” Paul Walton recalled. “That’s how the No Regrets Tour started.”

The first governor Sidney Walton met was Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo, who now serves as the U.S. commerce secretary. After that, one phone call led to another, and more and more and more governors were open to meeting the aging veteran, who by then was getting around in a wheelchair.

Sidney Walton enlisted in the U.S. Army early in 1941, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He told his children he wanted to serve because he wanted to kill Hitler, Paul Walton said.

The elder Walton served as an infantryman during the campaigns in China, Burma and India. After the war, he worked as both a geology professor and chemical engineer, married and had three children and rarely talked about his military experiences, Paul Walton said.

“There was no spoils of war, nothing, no mention, zero, no talk, like it never happened,” he said.

His father drew national media attention in 2020 when he was one of four military veterans, all at least 100 years old, who took part in the coin toss for the Super Bowl.

Paul Walton said hearing the cheers and applause for his father at similar large-scale events, including a public appearance at a Red Sox baseball game at Boston’s Fenway Park, cheered both Waltons.

They had visited New Mexico before, and Sidney Walton particularly liked Alamogordo and Los Alamos, two communities with deep ties to winning World War II.

“He so wanted to make New Mexico his 41st state [on the tour],” Paul Walton said. “And it breaks my heart to have to come to New Mexico, to the land he loved so much, without him.”

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(2) comments

Brad Doubles

Rest in Peace soldier. Thanks to you and all of the Greatest Generation for saving the world from tyranny and evil. A worthy endeavor indeed.

David Pierce

Amen to that

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.