Hampton veteran keeps going the distance to inspire others

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HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Veterans have made sacrifices for our country — and that’s why today we celebrate and honor their service. One Hampton man, who’s been awarded for his service, is going the distance to inspire others to keep going.

Robert White lives a simple life. He writes poetry, paints and even plays the fiddle.

But it’s his running that he’s using not just to keep others going, but also himself, decades after he returned home from serving.

“I’m still trying to do what I used to do. Still doing it, but a little slower. But I keep it up. I keep doing it,” White said.

And that’s what helps this veteran put one foot in front of another every time he leaves his home. Every other day he runs three miles — which is a lot, especially since White is 95.

“They say I can’t even run a block,” White said. “Most of ’em say that, but it’s a matter of starting and doing.”

But this isn’t even the most interesting part of White’s journey.

He’s a U.S. Army veteran who, during during World War II, was assigned to an airborne infantry division known as “Thunder From Heaven”, which fought in The Battle of the Bulge.

White received a Bronze Star Medal just months ago for his service in that battle, which is known as one of the greatest in American history. 

“I was 19. Most of them was teenagers. I give teenagers credit for winning that war,” White said. 

White served as a lineman in communication, so he was always on the front line. He saw a lot, including the world’s biggest gun — the Gustav — and concentration camps in Germany. 

White said, “When we went in there, they had them drawer looking things, you’d pull the drawer out. Their eyes were sunk back in their head. All they did was gaze at you. I don’t know if they knew they were free or not. I didn’t know if they survived or not.”

And a lot of what he saw is still hard for him to talk about. 

“I think I’m getting better, but it looks like after over 70 years … close to 75, you would kind of get it off your mind. But it stays there,” White said. “Sometimes you dream or you’re sleeping the Germans are coming in this house and I’m going out the backdoor, stuff like that. Or they’re over the hill or out in the woods, all kind of dreams.”

White says hitting the pavement helps get his mind off a lot of things.

And that’s why he continues to do it — serving our country in a different way, and being an inspiration to let those younger than him know that if he can keep going, so can you.

“A lot of them runners they’ll say, ‘you really inspire me.’ That’s what I’m out here for. If I inspire one person, I’ve done my job,” White  said. 

White has run in a number of races, including the 100th Boston Marathon and race in Yorktown a couple of weeks ago. He says he doesn’t plan when he does them, he just goes.

White is also hoping to be awarded the French Legion of Honour. He will know in a couple of months.

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