Some could argue that the desire to serve your country is something you learn. It could be a passage from a history textbook, coverage on the news, or a story about valor that pushes some to enlist. But for others, it’s in their blood. A fierce streak of patriotism that cannot be channeled in any way but to stand on the front line, an innate aspiration towards greatness that cannot be explained.
Charley Dickson always knew he would join the active forces. It was a decision he didn’t even have to make. He was raised around examples of proud, upstanding service men. His grandpa was in the military. All 5 of his brothers served as well, in different branches. Charley decided early on that he wanted to join the Navy. And in 1965, he did.
Charley served 4 years as a machinist aboard the USS WASP. They were some of the greatest years of his life. In that time, his carrier was responsible for the safe recovery of several astronauts from the Gemini space missions after they landed in the water. He spent his years on the Eastern coast conducting operations, transporting cargo and embarking on classified – often dangerous – missions. The work was hard and the hours were long. Charley’s body and mind were put to the test, and each day he pushed the limits from where he was the day before. But above all, his time spent aboard the USS WASP gave Charley the fulfillment he valued above all: that what he was doing with his life was meaningful, important, and appreciated.
That felt like a lifetime ago. Charley sighs, and looks away from the framed photos and memorabilia his wife Becky keeps around the house. He unlocks his wheelchair and guides himself over to the window, to the view where he can see his front yard. He sits, lost in thought, for a long period of time.
What should be the twilight years of Charley’s life have been fraught with complications and hardship. Instead of relaxing and enjoying the easy pace of retirement, he “fights every day to retain his dignity, independence, and self-respect due to numerous medical disabilities.” He can no longer do the things that bring him the simplest pleasures: fixing the car, tinkering on the lawn mower, being there to provide assistance to those who depend on him. He worked his whole life to support his family without ever asking for anything. He kept his head down, guided by a moral compass that held him to a code of silent pride and strength. Recently though, that compass has been compromised. In the past three years, Charley has been diagnosed with cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), has had both legs amputated due to peripheral artery disease, and suffered both a stroke and a heart attack.
In a few short years, Charley was robbed of his independence and sense of purpose.
His step son, SSgt. Jeffrey Smith, knew how difficult Charley’s life had become. He and his brother, Jason, both assisted their mother and Charley monetarily… but it wasn’t enough. He watched as Charley attempted to receive help from the VA, in vain. “The VA works within the confines of a ‘one size fits all system,'” Jeff told us. “Unfortunately, that isn’t the way the world works.” So, Jeff took matters into his own hands. He spent hours scouring the Internet, researching charities that prioritized assisting our nation’s veterans. And he found what he was looking for in Chive Charities.
“Without the people at Chive Charities and particularly selfless people like Angie, Charley would not be getting the help he needs. I believe in community involvement. And Chive Charities is just a fine example of community banding together to help those in need.”