SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (KEYT/Meredith) -- On his 105th birthday, First Lieutenant Charles Dever got a special surprise from the team at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

His face was emotional as his brothers in arms honored him with the color guard.

Surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, 30th Space Wing Commander Anthony Mastalir made Dever an honorary member of the United States Space Force.

“Just like you lead the way to the birth of the Air Force, your example to our airman as they transition to become space professionals, we are so grateful for all that you have done,” Mastalir said.

Dever said he had no idea this celebration was coming.

“It's incredible. I never expected anything like this, anything like this at all,” he said.

Dever is one of the last remaining members of what’s known as The Greatest Generation.

The WWII veteran served as a navigator in the Army Air Corps, sitting in the cockpit of B-24 airplanes, witnessing all of the fighting going on around him.

“He has always told us stories. He said it was the time of his life, but he was also scared to death,” said Dever’s daughter, Kathy Snell.

While serving, Dever risked his life flying more than 50 missions.

“Every mission waking up and preparing, reading the intelligence, getting ready for the flight knowing it could be your last but doing it day after day... it's truly amazing,” Mastalir said.

Service members from Vandenberg also sent birthday cards and emails of gratitude to Dever, who received many medals for his accomplishments, including the distinguished flying cross. The Vandenberg team eventually folded and presented him with the American Flag.

“This flag is a symbol of our appreciation to your honorable and faithful service,” Mastalir said.

As for the secret to a long and fulfilling life, Dever had four simple words for everyone.

“Breathe in and out,” Dever said.

Copyright 2020 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

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