105-year-old San Diego man receives birthday letter from Pres. Trump

Posted at 4:33 PM, Mar 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-17 01:36:44-04

POWAY (KGTV) -- Ray Chavez, the nation's oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran, received a special note from the U.S. commander-in-chief in celebration of his 105th birthday.

The Poway resident, whose birthday was last Friday, served aboard the USS Condor, which was designed to detect mines that would blow up the U.S. fleet of steel ships. 

"Melania and I want to join your friends and loved ones in honoring and thanking you for your service to our great nation," President Donald Trump wrote.  "Our best wishes for health and happiness in the coming year.''

"Keep going!," Trump penned.

At 105, Chavez is doing more than many half his age to stay healthy and keep it going.  In previous interviews with 10News, Chavez revealed that he pumps iron twice a week at a nearby gym.

"I don't have muscles, but I've got a little strength," he told 10News.

His daughter takes care of Chavez at his small home in Poway.  

In 2015, a group of sailors came together to repair the driveway at after they learned that it was so uneven that he couldn't enjoy his daily walks around his home.

10News military reporter Hannah Mullins reached out to Navy Region Southwest. One person took the project on, and suddenly 15 volunteered.

Once at his home in Poway, they jumped into action, pulling up bricks, trimming bushes and removing old furniture too heavy for Chavez to lift.

Their help was a gesture of gratitude for a fellow serviceman who raced out of bed on his day off and returned to his post as Japanese bomber planes blasted Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.

"You see all the men in the water," he told 10News in a 2015 interview. "[The soldiers] Full of oil and most of them were dead. It made my eyes water. I started to cry."

The older he gets, the more loss his heart is hit with. Like the loss of his wife of 50 years, his daughter, his son-in-law and his granddaughter.

"They're disappearing slowly," Chavez said. "I'm outliving them and I miss them."

In his letter, Trump said Chavez's story "is treasured by our nation, and the sacrifices you made in service to our country should fill you with tremendous pride.''