Remembering Ray Chavez

November 27, 2018

Last week we said goodbye to a proud Veteran and a great American. On November 23, the day after Thanksgiving, Ray Chavez, oldest U.S. military survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the United States into World War II, passed away at age 106. 

On March 17, 2017, in a letter from the White House, President Trump personally wished Ray a happy 105th birthday. More recently, Ray was invited to Washington, D.C., in May, where he was honored by President Trump in a Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery and welcomed as a distinguished guest at the White House. 

On his journey home, Carrington CEO and Founder Bruce Rose and CCF Chairman Rosemary Rose had the distinct honor of flying Ray and his daughter Kathleen – recognized as the U.S. Navy's first female jet engine mechanic – by plane from Washington Dulles International Airport to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, on behalf of the Veterans Airlift Command. From there, Carrington COO Dave Gordon transported Ray and Kathleen by helicopter to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California, near their home.   

Before the Pearl Harbor attack, aboard the minesweeper USS Condor, Ray helped identify and sink a Japanese submarine. After working through the early morning hours, he returned home to sleep. Upon hearing of the attack, he raced back to his duty station to find the harbor in flames. Ray would spend the next week working around the clock, sifting through the destruction that crippled the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet. He was later assigned to the transport ship USS La Salle, ferrying troops, tanks, and other equipment to war-torn islands across the Pacific, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa. 

Although never wounded, Ray left the military in 1945 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that left him anxious and shaking. Returning to San Diego, where he had grown up, he took a job as a landscaper and groundskeeper, attributing the outdoors, a healthy diet, and a strict workout program that he continued into his early 100s with restoring his health. 

“Ray was an amazing example of the disappearing Greatest Generation,” said Bruce Rose. “To say that it was an honor for Carrington Aviation and the Rose family to accompany Ray and his daughter would be an understatement.” 

For the past decade, Carrington Aviation has donated aircraft and crew while working with the Veterans Airlift Command (VAC) to make available free, private air transportation for Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and their families. Carrington Charitable Foundation funds the VAC’s entire operating budget, allowing the organization to focus more on fulfilling missions and expanding its pilot network. Additionally, Carrington Aviation has flown nearly 200 missions in support of the VAC — the largest number of flights to date of all members. To date, the VAC has flown well over 16,000 combat wounded and their families, including Veterans like Ray Chavez, to medical facilities for treatment and reuniting them with loved ones. 

“Ray Chavez served his country during a critical time in our history,” said Dave Gordon. “He was among the best of us, and he will be missed.” 

Ray Chavez was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret. He is survived by his daughter, Kathleen.

Ray Chavez returns a salute from U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy service members.


U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy sailors were proud to shake the hand of Ray Chavez.


Kathleen Chavez was the U.S. Navy's first female jet engine mechanic.


Dave Gordon assists Ray Chavez before his flight home on a Carrington Aviation helicopter.


Rosemary Rose greets Ray Chavez.


Bruce Rose wishes a safe flight home to an honored Veteran.