As reported by The Conservative Brief on Nov. 24, 2018.
Ray Chavez, a man who was celebrated as the oldest living veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack, died Wednesday at the age of 106 in the San Diego suburb of Poway after a battle with pneumonia.
The mild-mannered Chavez became a national figure three years ago when he was recognized as the oldest survivor of the 1941 attack by other Pearl Harbor survivors, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
When praised for his service, his reaction was often to shrug, according to his daughter Kathleen Chavez. “I was just doing my job,” he would say.
His death was mourned in a tweet by the White House: “We are saddened to hear the oldest living Pearl Harbor veteran, Ray Chavez, has passed away at the age of 106. We were honored to host him at the White House earlier this year. Thank you for your service to our great Nation, Ray!
In May, President Donald Trump praised Chavez as he attended a Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery.
Chavez “doesn’t look a day over 60,” Trump said. He called Chavez “truly an inspiration to all who are here today.”
Trump pledged, “We will never forget our heroes.”
Seventy-five years after the attack, Chavez said its memory still haunted him: “I still feel a loss … We were all together. We were friends and brothers. I feel close to all of them.”
Japan’s surprise attack crippled the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet and killed 2,335 U.S. military personnel and 68 civilians.
Chavez suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following the attack. He returned to his hometown of San Diego, where working in nature helped him recover from his symptoms of anxiety and shaking.
Chavez was not wounded in the attack, but he witnessed the aftermath in around-the-clock shifts.
Before the attack, Chavez helped identify and sink a Japanese submarine. After working through the early morning, he returned home to sleep. That’s when the bombers arrived.
In 2016, he recalled his wife waking him as the attack raged: “The Japanese are here, and they’re attacking everything,” she told him.
The harbor was in flames when he arrived.
After sifting through destruction for days, he was later assigned to a transport ship to ferry troops, tanks and other equipment to war-torn islands across the Pacific.
Chavez did not talk of the attack until its 50th anniversary. At that time, he began regularly attending anniversary events.
Chavez was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret. His daughter is his only survivor.
In Chinese Fortune Calendar, 2018 is called Brown Earth Dog Year. The first day of the Brown Dog is not the Chinese New Year in Chinese Astrology. 2018 Chinese Brown Dog starts on February 4, 2018 in China’s time zone, a week ago.
Being 2018 is the Year of the Dog, it reminds me that I was once terrified of dogs. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who are afraid of dogs. Are you one of them?
Years ago, I did not want to be near dogs for fear of being bitten by them. Why was it that dogs always came to me when I saw one? They seemed to want to terrorize people who do not like them? It happened to me all the time. Everywhere I went and saw a dog, they approached me. I stood frozen on the spot. I was totally petrified.
I was so afraid of dogs until . . .
When my two sons were growing up, they wanted a dog and I always said, “No. You may not have a dog.” My husband grew up with dogs. I’m sure he wanted a dog too. His father used to train hunting dogs. But I did not want a dog.
One day, my youngest son came home with his girlfriend and two dogs. One was a Dalmatian.
Alex said, “Mom, can we adopt the Dalmatian?”
I emphatically said, “No.” He turned to his father. “Dad, can we?”
“Your mother has spoken.”
A week later, Alex came home with the dog again. My son begged again. “Mom, they are going to send him to the animal shelter.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want a dog!”
“Can we try him for a week?” The dog approached my husband. He licked his hand. That did it for him.
“OK, just for a week on condition that you will take care of him,” my husband said.
“Good. I will,” Alex said. “We’ll call him Dallas, after my favorite team.”
I was furious. I did not want the darned dog. I kept a distance from him. Alex kept on pushing his luck. “Mom, just pet him.”
“He’ll bite me.”
“He will not.”
“Yes, he will.”
“Just try it.”
I petted him reluctantly. I was still afraid. I tolerated the dog. One week led to two weeks and guess what? The dog stayed.
I never walked the dog. I never fed him. I did not want any part of him. I wanted to lock him in the kitchen but I got vetoed out by my husband who said the dog could go anywhere in the house. He was part of the family.
“OK. But I don’t want to be near him. And he better not mess in the house,” I said. The dog must have sensed my disapproval of him because he tried to avoid me except . . .
One day, I came home before everyone did. My son usually walked him. Sometimes my husband walked him too. But not me. Never! But on this particular afternoon, my resolve went out the window. For reason, I could not fathom, I did the unthinkable. I walked the dog.
The dog greeted me by the door and wanted to go out badly. He was wagging his tail furiously. I did not know what time my son or my husband would be home. I was afraid he’d pee in the house or even worse.
So I dropped my briefcase on the hallway (I was an accountant at that time), grabbed the leash and we went out. It just stopped raining. We just stepped down the steps of the front porch and he bolted across the lawn. The ground was slippery and I fell. Luckily it was late winter. I had an overcoat and my boots on. I was holding that leash for dear life not wanting the dog to run away. He was pulling me and I won’t let go. The dog dragged me across the lawn and across my neighbor’s front yard. He was a big and strong dog. My neighbor’s daughter was sitting on her front porch, saw us and ran out and rescued me. She grabbed the dog by his collar and scolded him.
“Bad dog. Bad dog,” she said.
She turned to me. “Are you OK, Mrs. Morgan?”
I had a tough time standing up. I tried to catch my breath. “I’m fine, I think.”
Limping, I took the dog back inside my house. He looked contrite. He knew he did a bad thing. Whether he peed or not, I had no idea, By this time, I did not care. I could not breathe. I closed the door and leaned on it. My chest hurt like hell. I sat down on the nearest chair.
My husband came home a few minutes later. I was still in my business suit. I have not moved from the chair. I was breathing hard and my face must have shown the pain. I was holding my chest.
“Are you OK?”
I told him what happened. I was aching all over. I told him I just wanted to go to bed. He made some tea. I drank a little of it and went upstairs. I could barely move. I changed into my nightgown and tried to go to sleep.
By 3 AM, I was still in agony. I had a hard time going to sleep. I tossed and turned. I could not find the right position. Everything hurt. I was in terrible pain. I had a hard time breathing. I woke up my husband and told him I wanted to go to emergency.
He took me to Glen Cove Hospital which was closer to my home. They took some x-rays and gave me a shot to ease the pain and told me to take a couple of Aspirins or Tylenols. Tylenol never does anything for me so I took aspirins every four hours. I bruised my ribs and they could not do anything about it. It would just take time to heal by itself, I was told. I just had to take the painkiller.
Three weeks later, I got a call from the hospital. She said they were checking my file and found out I had walking pneumonia.
I was shocked. I could not believe what she were saying. I asked why she only called now. She said the hospital was contacting me before but to no avail. That was the biggest lie there was. They had my home phone, my cell phone, and my office phone. Those three phones could not possibly be busy all at the same time. I bet they never called any of those numbers. They were just covering their you know what. They told me to go to my regular doctor and get another x-ray. I was furious.
I went to see my doctor in Huntington the next day and bingo. Positive. I had walking pneumonia. My doctor put me on antibiotics. I had to see him every other week till my lungs cleared. They even took a couple of MRIs just to be sure my lungs were finally clear. I was on antibiotics for 13 weeks.
If I did not fall down, I would not be x-rayed.
Before that fall, I was feeling very tired for some time. I could hardly get up the stairs. By the time, I reached the top, I’d be catching my breath. I never thought of pneumonia. I just started a new job and was working long hours. I thought I was just tired and stressed out. When I told my boss that I had pneumonia and had to cut my hours, he told me I did not look sick. But I was. I cut down my hours at work leaving for home at 1 PM but I took some work home.
If it were not for Dallas, I could have died without even knowing what was wrong with me. Dallas saved my life.
After that, Dallas and I became close friends. I spoilt him rotten. When he died years later, I cried for three days, skipped work and could not function for days.
That incident changed my whole attitude towards dogs. I was able to conquer my fear of dogs. I began to love dogs and am still a dog lover.
Then, when I went to the Philippines in 1993, I saw a life-size dalmatian porcelain statue at a Chinese store. I bought it not thinking of how I could bring it to NY.
Here it was sitting with my father at my parent’s home’s front porch in the Philippines the day I bought it.
Mom and Dad suggested I left it with them but I was determined to bring it with me to NY. We packed it carefully with all kinds of padding.
At the airport, the clerk asked what was in the box. I said, “Statue.”
“Wooden statue?” she asked. (Philippines is known for beautiful wooden statues.)
I said, “No. Porcelain.” She let me sign a disclaimer that they were not responsible if the statue break during transit.
The statue made it to NY with one scary moment when we landed in Hongkong and the plane bumped at landing. All I could think of was my statue. When we moved to Charleston, I put him in an old steamer trunk with pillows and all kinds of padding.
Here it is now in my foyer at my home in Charleston.
Fifty years ago on October 14, 1967, I stepped out of a Philippine Airline flight from Manila into a new country with a third preference visa for professionals. I was a CPA from the Philippines. I arrived at Honolulu International Airport with my vanity case, my handbag with my Philippines passport and a hundred dollars in cash. I also had with me my third preference visa, my US certified medical x-ray and a form that stated I had financial support guaranteeing that I will not be a public charge in the United States. My big suitcase was checked in to go straight to New York.
It was a bright sunny day when I deplaned in Honolulu, feeling in awe of the place as a welcoming Hawaiian lady placed a lei over my head and thankful that I made it across the Pacific after a long flight. I don’t know anybody when I arrived on U.S. soil but with the grace of God and an ardent ambition to go abroad, I was on my first leg on my trip to New York.
I reached NY early Sunday morning at 6 am after traveling for almost 24 hours when I left Manila Saturday night. It did not take me long to land a job in New York. Exactly three days after I arrived in New York, I got an offer from ITT Corporation. They wanted me to start right away and I said I would rather start a week later so I could get acquainted with the city first.
I became a U.S. Citizen in 1973 after being a legal immigrant for at least five years which was the requirement for naturalization. I love my new country and have stayed for 50 years. I’ve only been back to the Philippines four times – in 1993 when my parents had their 50th wedding anniversary, in 2006 when both my parents were hospitalized at the same time, in 2007 I made two trips, when Dad passed away in May and then in November 2007 when I was able to talk Mom into coming to New York but she demanded I picked her up. So I did. It was the last time I was back.
It has been a memorable journey and will keep on going. The United States has been good to me and I am grateful. God bless America!