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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