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VAFB honors WWII Vet on 105th birthday as honorary SF member

Photo from 105th birthday celebration

Lt. Charles Dever holds the folded United States Flag Sep. 20, 2020 at Mariposa at Ellwood Shores assisted living while supported by his family. The flag is significant to Devers, as he reflected in the 98th Bomb Group alumni newsletter, The Pyramidiers, “The American flag flew over the building was such a great sight to see, especially since we were so far from home.” (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Patrick Harrower)

Portrait photo of Lieutenant Charles Dever

Charles Dever soon after enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1941. “Aerial combat was like playing a giant pinball machine. Neither side was especially trying to kill the other, but each was trying to disable the other’s machine. It was as though we were flying against our second cousins, as a lot of us were just a few generations removed from Germany. So, it amounted to who could win the game,” said Dever in a newsletter from the 98th Bombardment Squadron. (Courtesy photo)

Photo from 105th birthday celebration

Col. Anthony Mastalir stands with Kathy Snell and Lt. Dever as the family shows and explains WWII decorations Sept. 20, 2020, in Goleta, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaitlin Cashin)

Photo from 105th birthday celebration

Lt. Charles Devers, supported by family members, stands from his wheelchair to accept an American Flag presented by the Vandenberg Air Force Base honor guard Sept. 20, 2020, in Goleta. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Patrick A Harrower)

Photo of birthday cards

Vandenberg service members contributed over 60 letters, emails, and notes recognizing 1st Lt. Charles Dever contained in silver and black folders on Sept. 20, 2020, in Goleta, Calif. The silver and black were chosen to represent Dever’s honorary United States Space Force Membership. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt Katie Cashin)

Photo from 105th birthday celebration

Charles Dever smiles while holding his “105” cap before eating his birthday cake at Mariposa at Ellwood Shores assisted living facility on Sep. 20, 2020, in Goleta, Calif. The cake was provided by his family as part of a grand surprise birthday recognition. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaitlin Cashin)

Photo from 105th birthday celebration

Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing Commander, recognizes Lt. Charles Dever for his time in service, during Dever’s 105 birthday celebration Sept. 20, 2020, in Goleta, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaitlin Cashin)

Photo from 105th birthday celebration

Lt. Col. Sean Ianacone, Second Range Operations Squadron, speaks during Lt. Charles Dever’s 105th birthday celebration Sept. 20, 2020, in Goleta. Ianacone presented Dever with a 2nd ROPS poster. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaitlin Cashin)

Portrait photo of Lieutenant Charles Dever

Charles Dever on his wedding day after he commissioned on March 15, 1943. The B-24 Liberator heavy bomb squadron was trained by the Third Air Force. The group deployed to Egypt, Lybia, Tunisia, and played a major role in attacking the Nazi-controlled oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. (Courtesy photo)

GOLETA, Calif. --

1st Lt. Charles “Charlie” Dever, local Goleta resident and WWII veteran, turned the seasoned age of 105 on Sunday.

It began with an email to Vandenberg AFB from Dever’s daughter, Kathy. When the 30th Space Wing leadership learned that local WWII veteran was turning 105 years old, they went “all-in” for the surprise.

This Sunday, for his 105th birthday, Dever was expecting to celebrate with his immediate family and a few residents. What Dever got was a surprise celebration courtesy of a Team Vandenberg effort and community recognition for his time in the U.S. Army Air Corps and his legacy as a WWII B-24 navigator.

“We thought we would shoot for the moon and see where we landed,” Kathy said.

Members from across the installation wrote birthday cards, notes, and emails to recognize Dever for his time in service. More than 60 notes from various units were collected with messages coming from as far as Fort Carson, Colorado.

Team Vandenberg worked with Kathy to coordinate a COVID-conscientious grand ceremony, complete with parade, color guard presentation, speeches from leadership, and the folding of and presentation of the American flag.

After opening statements were made by Peter Bonilla, executive director of the facility, 30th Space Wing Commander, Anthony Mastalir recognized Dever. Mastalir referenced the historical context of WWII and excerpts from Dever’s memoirs as a part of what exemplified courageous service.

“While Charles will tell you that his years in the military were the greatest years of his life, (Devers) will be honest about the chilling feeling of sitting in the cockpit, clear nose of the plane with all of the fighting going on around him,” said Mastalir. “At 105 years old, Lt. Charles Dever is one of the few remaining individuals from the Greatest Generation. 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.”

Lt. Col Ianacone, 2nd Range Operations Squadron commander, was also inspired by Dever’s time in service.

“I attended this party because it is not every day that one of our nation’s heroes turns 105,” said Ianacone.

In addition to the cards, 30th Space Wing’s 2nd Range Operations Squadron signed and framed one of their heritage posters for the ‘Range Rats,’ and presented it to Dever.

The gifts kept coming in. On behalf of the installation, Mastalir presented Dever with the 30th Space Wing challenge coin and granted him honorary membership in the United States Space Force.

These presentations were followed by a proclamation from Goleta City Council Member, Kyle Richards, on behalf of the mayor of Goleta, Paula Perotte, and the grand opening of the assisted living facility’s new bocce ball court.

Charles Dever is originally from Englewood, NJ, and entered the U.S. Army on Feb. 11, 1941. Over the course of his four years in active duty, Dever served as a lead navigator in the 98th Bombardment Group, flying B-24s. Dever was a part of history during their missions to bomb shipping and harbor installations in Libya, Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, Crete, and Greece to cut enemy supply lines to Africa. His unit also targeted airdromes and rail facilities in Sicily and Italy.

Until a just over a year ago, Dever was living independently. If you ask any of his friends, they’ll tell you that he is a self-sufficient man, with a good sense of humor. He now lives in Mariposa at Ellwood Shores assisted living facility in Goleta near Kathy, his three grandchildren, Christy, Cindy, and Amy, and two great grandchildren, Alex and Chloe.