This 105-Year-Old WWII Vet Became an Honorary Space Force Member

 In Afghanistan, Syria, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, Iraq

On September 20, 2020, at the Mariposa at Ellwood Shores assist­ed living facil­i­ty in Goleta, California, Lt. Charles Dever cel­e­brat­ed his 105th birth­day. But, he wasn’t alone. Along with his chil­dren, grand­chil­dren, and great-grand­chil­dren, Dever was joined by a color guard and senior offi­cers from Vandenberg Air Force Base includ­ing the 30th Space Wing Commander Col. Anthony Mastalir.

Dever in his uni­form (Dever family)

Originally from Englewood, New Jersey, Dever joined the Army on February 11, 1941. During his four years of ser­vice on active duty, Dever served as a B‑24 Liberator lead nav­i­ga­tor in the 98th Bombardment Group. Throughout WWII, he flew over 50 mis­sions bomb­ing ship­ping and harbor instal­la­tions in Libya, Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, Crete, and Greece to stem the flow of Axis sup­plies to Africa as well as air­fields and rail facil­i­ties in Sicily and Italy. Devers described his wartime career as the time of his life, but he was also scared to death. “Every mis­sion, waking up, prepar­ing, read­ing the intel­li­gence, get­ting ready for the flight, know­ing that that could be your last, but doing it day after day after day,” said Col. Mastalir of Dever, “it’s truly amaz­ing.” During his time in the Army Air Force, Dever earned a number of medals includ­ing an Air Medal with oak leaf clus­ter and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Until last year, Dever had lived on his own. To give her father a spe­cial sur­prise for his 105th birth­day, Dever’s daugh­ter, Kathy, reached out to Vandenberg Air Force Base asking for help. “We thought we would shoot for the moon and see where we landed,” she said. When the base lead­er­ship learned about Devers’ birth­day, they got to work.

With coor­di­na­tion from Team Vandenberg, birth­day cards, notes, and emails poured in not only from Vandenberg but from across the coun­try. Team Vandenberg also coor­di­nat­ed with Kathy to arrange a social­ly dis­tanced grand cer­e­mo­ny to include a color guard, parade, speech­es from lead­ers, and the fold­ing of and pre­sen­ta­tion of the American flag.

Dever with his birth­day cake (U.S. Air Force)

During the cer­e­mo­ny, Col. Mastalir com­mend­ed Dever for his ser­vice. “It is the legacy of war­riors like Lt. Dever who have set the stan­dard and expec­ta­tion that I hope to achieve during my years in ser­vice,” he said. “Just like you led the way to the birth of the Air Force, your exam­ple [to] our airmen, as they tran­si­tion to become space pro­fes­sion­als, we’re so grate­ful for all that you have done.” Col. Mastalir pre­sent­ed Dever with the 30th Space Wing chal­lenge coin and a framed cer­tifi­cate making him an hon­orary member of the United States Space Force.

Dever was amazed and over­joyed with the cer­e­mo­ny. “It’s incred­i­ble,” he said. “I never expect­ed any­thing like this at all.” When asked what the secret to a long and ful­fill­ing life was, the Greatest Generation and now Space Force member said, “Breathe in and out.”

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