Pensacola chiefs reach out to help Midway vet, 94


Senior Chief Hospital Corpsmen Patrick Updergraff and Bobby Pilgrim, both with the Chief Petty Officers Association at Naval Hospital Pensacola, Fla., chat with Charles Wheeler, 94, as he tells of his experiences in the Navy during World War II on May 29 at his home in Foley, Ala. A dozen chiefs from Pensacola volunteered to help Wheeler, a retired chief, with some yardwork. (Navy photo by Jason Bortz)

Becoming a Navy chief is like joining a family. And sometimes, joining a family means helping with yardwork.

Seventy-one years ago today, Charles “Chuck” Wheeler was serving aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CV 6) during the Battle of Midway. He stayed on the flattop into 1944 and remained in the Navy for 28 years, retiring as a chief. Now 94, he sometimes needs a bit of help doing work outside his Foley, Ala., home.

Chief Hospital Corpsman Chi Patrick does some edge-trimming. (Photo by MC1 James Stenberg/Navy)

Those needs were passed along to the Chief Petty Officer Association at Naval Hospital Pensacola, Fla., by another veteran working aboard the battleship Alabama, now a museum in Mobile Bay. On May 29, a dozen chiefs made their way to Wheeler’s home, about a half-hour from the hospital, and went to work, according to this Navy news release, doing everything from mowing the lawn to digging up fence posts.

“I don’t have the words to express my gratitude in relations to what you all are doing for me,” Wheeler said, according to the release. “Any little thing helps me tremendously.”

The release quoted several chiefs on hand to help out, but these words from Chief Hospital Corpsman Chris McKenzie pretty much sum things up: “The fact that he, as a chief, paved the way for who I am today, blows my mind. To think what [veterans]went through so that we could have the luxury that we have today makes me feel really honored to be here.”

While the Navy marked the Battle of Midway with an online seminar and the traditional history lesson, among other efforts, these Florida chiefs honored previous generations of sailors with a personal touch. Has your group of sailors, your base, your ship or your unit done something similar to help veterans? Leave us a note in the comments or send an email here.


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  1. Pingback: Chiefs lend hand to 94-year-old Midway veteran — Off Duty Plus

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