SOUTH COUNTY — King City resident Charles DeSchepper was recently named Veteran of the Year for 2017 by the Monterey County Military and Veterans Affairs Office Advisory Commission, which honored him last Saturday at the annual ceremonial dinner in Monterey.
“Your achievements as a service member serving your country, and now as a veteran serving your community, have been exemplary,” said Wes Morrill, Monterey County Military and Veterans Affairs officer, in a letter to DeSchepper announcing the recognition. “Your contributions clearly help demonstrate to the citizens of Monterey County that veterans are a vital asset in and to our community.”
DeSchepper, 70, is a Vietnam War veteran who grew up in Iowa.
Fresh out of high school, DeSchepper was just 18 years old when he entered the U.S. Navy in 1965, relocating to sunny California. As a boiler technician on board the landing ship dock USS Alamo (LSD-33), he helped transport Marines from Camp Pendleton to Vietnam.
“If you went any lower, you were wet,” he quipped about working at the bottom of the ship.
DeSchepper joined the Navy so he could “see the world” while meeting interesting people along the way, including members of the Underwater Demolition Team, the Navy’s elite combat swimmers who were the precursor to the present-day Navy SEALs.
“It was interesting to meet people from different places and different rates,” he said. “I met people from all over the United States.”
Now out of the service, DeSchepper moved to King City in 1987 and worked as the superintendent of agriculture for the local prison system, running its dairy and farm program. He was transferred out of the area in 1991 to start an ag program at a women’s prison, becoming the first person in California to use female inmates in agriculture.
DeSchepper eventually moved back to King City in 2011 upon retirement, where he joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars Sgt. Frank Lillard Post 6747 and now serves as the quartermaster. In 2014, he was named the local post’s Veteran of the Year.
“I definitely would like to see more veterans involved in the VFW here in King City. I know they’re out there, but I don’t know who they are,” he said. “A lot of people get out of the service and they want nothing at all to do with it. … But, we’re just a group of people who have a lot in common from being in war zones in one way or another.”
In addition to his VFW post duties, DeSchepper is a member of the American Legion and the Elks Club, helping with fundraisers that benefit both veterans and the community. He also transports veterans to and from their medical appointments or to the grocery store, and assists with Stand Downs to provide supplies and services to homeless vets.
DeSchepper helps kick off the local little league season as part of the color guard team as well as volunteers at the annual youth fishing derby sponsored by Fort Hunter Liggett. He also spends countless hours doing repair work or groundskeeping at Mission San Antonio de Padua in Jolon.
DeSchepper’s wife Pam and VFW Post Commander Bob Lockwood nominated him for the county’s Veteran of the Year award, saying he embodies the “never say no” attitude.
“No job is too big or too small for Charlie,” they said. “(He) is always busy helping somebody or some cause.”
Continuing with that attitude, DeSchepper will be helping out Saturday at the VFW’s annual Veteran’s Day barbecue, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the VFW hall, 599 Bitterwater Road, in King City.
“It’s quite an honor to be selected as Veteran of the Year,” DeSchepper said. “… A lot of people must think I do a lot of stuff. It makes me feel really good that I’m able to give back to the community and to be able to help, and to have a wife who is supportive of that.”