“It’s a horrible way to die at 77 years old, just not the way to go.”
Lt. Charles Silva served as a Navy pilot for 12 years during the Vietnam era, but he didn’t lose his life in combat.
Instead, it was decades later that naval officer died after being attacked by three men on ATVs, after he told them they were trespassing on private property around the Hampton Roads Executive Airport.
“He suffered for five weeks after he was beaten until he died,” said his brother-in-law, Brad Cherry.
It’s still hard for Cherry to talk about the man who they lovingly called “Chick.”
When the topic changes to Silva’s Navy career, though, there is no shortage of stories, such as the time he met legendary entertainer Bob Hope on the USS Ranger, or the memories of the plane he flew for many important missions.
“Like the Cuban Missile Crisis, I had no idea Chick was taking top-secret documents back and forth between Washington and Florida,” said Cherry.
Now, just a few weeks after his death, Silva’s military service will be in the national spotlight.
He will be honored at the annual Army/Navy football game because of family friend and active duty Naval Commander Chris Reaghard.
The two met at a barbeque a few years back.
“We just had an immediate link, and we began to discuss Navy life,” said Reaghard. “I used to be a catapult officer, a shooter, on the USS Roosevelt, and he was a shooter on the USS Ranger. My father was on the USS Ranger as well, just at a different time.”
Two sailors from different generations forging a friendship within their Navy history–so it was devastating for Reaghard to learn of how Lt. Silva died.
“I was shocked, angered, and just couldn’t believe that happened,” said Reaghard.
After Lt Silva’s funeral, Commander Reaghard wanted to do more to honoring his legacy…so he turned to the Navy Football team.
It’s something Reaghard knows a lot about, he was a defensive tackle for the Midshipmen in the 1990’s.
“For the Army/Navy game, and if we go to a bowl game, we will wear patches of different units, squadrons or ships,” said Reaghard. “That triggered my mind, ‘Hey, why don’t I ask the family what his favorite patch was and see if anybody would wear it?’”
The family picked Silva’s favorite F-8 Crusaders patch from Vietnam, and had one special made with his name on it.
Commander Reaghard sent it to the Naval Academy, along with a letter from Lt. Silva’s son, Ken.
It reads in part…“My father did not attend the Naval Academy nor did he play football there, but he was, however, a part of the Navy team.”
It seems that letter touched the heart of one of the Midshipmen’s seniors and starting defensive safeties.
“I found out later that Tra’ves Bush was going to wear it, and I was honored, flabbergasted and just happy,” said Reaghard.
This Saturday, it’s sure to be a party–Commander Reaghard will be watching the game along with Lt. Silva’s family.
When Tra’ves Bush steps onto the field for the first time, wearing the special patch, “I’ll be grinning ear to ear,” said Reaghard.
“How honored he would have been to have been able to see this,” said Cherry. “Who knows, he may.”
As for the investigation into who killed Silva, Chesapeake Police arrested Kyle Langreder after the attack, charging him with Malicious Wounding by Mob.
He has not been charged in Silva’s murder.
Police say their investigation continues into identifying who the other two attackers were.