The 100th birthday of Tech Sgt. Phil Chaperon, a three-year resident of the Oregon Veterans Home The Dalles, was celebrated Wednesday, Sept. 9, with a parade, fly-over and a host of family and guests.
Due to strict COVID-19 guidelines in place at the Veterans Home, Chaperon viewed the events through the windows of a bus, attended by a caregiver. Speaking at the event was The Dalles Mayor Rich Mays, as well and Councilor Rod Runyon, who also represented the Patriot Guard riders attending for the parade. Local law enforcement officers, including the Wasco County Sheriff’s mounted posse, were also well represented.
In addition to remarks made by Mayor Mays, a number of letters were read, thanking Chaperon for his service, including one signed by President Donald Trump.
Rep. Greg Walden wrote, thanked him for his service and wished him a happy birthday on behalf of the people of Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District. “Your bravery and sacrifice during World War II secured freedom of not just those in Europe who were under Nazi oppression, but also all freedom-loving peoples around the world. Americans are truly indebted to you for your service,” Walden wrote.
Sen. Ron Wyden also wrote his thanks, saying, “Your innumerable contributions to your community and your sacrifices — both on the home front and overseas — exemplify a life of service, and a life well lived. I hope you will celebrate this momentous event with your family and friends around you, knowing that you have touched many lives.”
Following the morning’s events, his family was able to spend time with him in an outdoor meeting area, but with social distancing measures in place, according to organizers.
Everyone attending wore masks throughout, some reading “Happy 100th Birthday Phil.” Shannon Milburn at Y-102 Country/Star FM radio volunteered to play 1940s and patriotic music and lent his PA system for the event.
Family attending the event came from the Portland metro area, Washington and the east coast.
A private plane flyover, which followed the parade, was led by Jeremy Young, president of the Columbia Gorge Aviation Association in Hood River. He was joined by volunteer pilots Grant Porter and former Sheriff Joe Wampler.
Chaperon served in World War II, training in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Colorado before being sent to England to join the 8th Air Force and 384th Bomb Group, where he served as a waist gunner on a B-17 bomber. In April 1944, he was on his 21st mission over Germany when his plane was destroyed by flak and fighter planes. He was blown free of the plane at about 25,000 feet, and woke up just in time to try and steer his parachute away from a German farmer’s barn, according to information published on his unit’s website. He was unable to avoid the barn, and injured his leg and ankle. Tech. Sgt. Chaperone spent one year in a German POW Camp.
He came home in 1945 to start a family and career, and said he’s had a great life.
A webpage on Chaperon is at 384thbombgroup.com/_content/_pages/person.php?PersonKey=5275.