If an alien came to earth right now and settled in America it may think that all men are abusers, cheaters, demanders of personal rights and refusing to stand for the national anthem. What happened to the greatest generation that fought for our freedom, worked hard, paid taxes and lived a life of honor?
Understand that no person yet alone generation is perfect. I’m sure women were abused in other generations. We just didn’t hear about it. I’m also sure that citizens have criticized the government and it’s leaders as well.
But…it seems like we are missing something and I picked a person this year to remind us of those long ago values.
Ray Chavez. You probably don’t know the name. He didn’t make billions of dollars with an internet invention. He didn’t get rich in real estate and become President. He isn’t an illegal immigrant or a mass murderer. He never created a protest group to fight against unjust laws. He doesn’t play football or participate in the Olympics.
Ray was born in San Bernardino and grew up in San Diego. His parents, immigrants from Mexico, both died young. Juanita Chavez died of exhaustion, her son said, while Atilano Chavez succumbed to disease. Ray was 9 or 10 when his father passed away. In his early 20s, he married and had a daughter. Then, at 27, he joined the Navy and was assigned to the minesweeper USS Condor at Pearl Harbor base in Hawaii.
After leaving the military he became a landscaper and ran his business until he was 96 years old. He drove his car until he was 99. At 106 he credits his longevity to clean living, no alcohol, no smoking and little red meat. In the 1950’s his only daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were killed in an auto accident. He and his wife adopted a 5-year-old daughter from an orphanage in 1957 to help ease their pain. His wife Margaret died in the mid-1980’s.
At age 101 his health began to decline and he lost weight. His daughter encouraged him to join a gym and get some training. He gained 20 pounds of muscle and began working out 3 times a week.
I skipped over the reason Ray caught my attention. He is the oldest surviving serviceman from the attack at Pearl Harbor.
At 3:45 a.m. Dec. 7, 1941, Seaman First Class Chavez’s crew was sweeping the east entrance to the harbor when they spotted the periscope of a Japanese midget submarine. Another ship blew up the sub and the rest of the morning passed uneventfully. He was asleep at home in nearby Ewa Beach when the Japanese bombing raid began at 8:10 a.m.
“I will never forget it as long as I live. It goes through my mind every day like it happened yesterday,” Chavez said. “My wife ran in and said ‘we’re being attacked’ and I said ‘who’s going to attack us? Nobody.’ But when I got outside I saw the whole harbor was up in smoke.”
Chavez ran back to his ship and spent the next nine days on continuous duty. Over the next four years, he rose to the rank of chief, serving on transport ships that delivered tanks and Marines to shore in eight Pacific battles.
Last December, he and Kathleen flew to Hawaii for events marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.