Oldest Pearl Harbor veteran dies at 106

As reported by The Conservative Brief on Nov. 24, 2018.

Ray Chavez at the White House.
Ray Chavez at the White House in May 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.

 

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