104-year-old Ray Chavez, the oldest-known survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack is returning to Hawaii this weekend thanks to fundraising by his community reports NBC Los Angeles.
December 7 will mark the 75th anniversary of the attack, and Chavez still has vivid memories of it. “All the harbor was on fire, all the ships were smoking black smoke because the Japanese had torpedoed and bombed.”
Chavez had just finished a bomb-sweeping shift when the attack started and rushed over to help.
“I saw all the men that were lost and all the ships that were sunk” Chavez said. “It didn’t take me right away; it was the next day that it really hit me, and I realized what had happened.”
Even at his age, he hasn’t lost his fighting spirit. Three years ago — when he was 101— he started going to a gym in his home town of San Diego and with the help of a trainer has since gained 20 pounds of muscle.
His strength and determination inspired the gym and a local rotary club to raise $13,000 to send Chavez, his daughter and his trainer, Sean Thompson to attend the anniversary ceremonies this weekend. “It makes me feel good to be there and honor all the ones that are passed away and also the ones that are still living but couldn’t attend,” he said.
“He’s a dying breed of really selfless bravery and patriotism that you don’t see anymore,” said Thompson.
“I’m very proud to serve and help and quite a few people tell me that I inspire them because of my age and being able to do these exercises and other things,” Chavez said.