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NEWS | July 30, 2021

Distinguished Army veteran, veterinarian celebrates 100 years

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Charles V.L. “Chuck” Elia celebrated his 100th birthday July 27, 2021, at a ceremony hosted by U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) at their Quadrangle headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. 

The event featured jazz music played by members of “Fort Sam’s Own,” the 323d Army Band, then special guests highlighted Elia’s many accomplishments and contributions to the U.S. Army.  

As part of the celebration and in honor of Elia’s dedication to Army veterinary medicine, a Percheron draft horse from the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Caisson Platoon was led into view and officially renamed Elia. The retired general, in turn, donated the brown leather veterinary kit his mother gifted him when he joined the Veterinary Corps to the U.S. Army Medical Museum.  

A native Texan, Elia was born in Marshall and attended the North Texas Agriculture College, now the University of Texas at Arlington. He was commissioned into the U.S. Army in 1942 as a second lieutenant in the Medical Administration Corps.  

In 1943, the proud Aggie graduated from Texas A&M as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, moving on to attend the University of California, George Washington University, and Johns Hopkins University, and graduating with a Master’s in Public Health.  

Elia went on to become the 16th Chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps and retired from military service in 1976.   

Throughout his service, Elia held numerous prestigious positions, including consultant to the Greek Army; deputy director of Public Health and Welfare and veterinary consultant to U.S. Civil Affairs, Ryukyu Islands, Japan; commandant to the U.S. Army Medical Department Veterinary School; chief Army Veterinarian to the 4th, 5th and 6th Armies; and finally, chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps.   

Elia is a distinguished diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Public Health and a recipient of the Surgeon’s General “A” proficiency prefix. 

Elia, along with other volunteers, assisted in gathering the funding to build the U.S. Army Medical Museum at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, which averages 52,000 visitors each year. This group of volunteers also created the museum’s foundation.  

"Brig. Gen. Charles 'Chuck' Elia's unstinting leadership and mentorship as a pioneer member of the Army Medical Department Museum Foundation have been invaluable and continued for over 40 years,” said retired U.S. Army Col. Dawn M. Smith, speaking for the museum’s foundation. “Brig. Gen. Elia served as one of the original members of the museum foundation’s board from its incorporation in 1978. He became treasurer of the foundation in August of 1979, and in that role was a key player in the early fundraising campaigns of the late 1970s and 1980s.” 

Smith said Elia completed vital and dedicated work as a member of the foundation board, helping bring about the museum’s groundbreaking in April 1988 and the opening on July 24, 1989.  

“Brig. Gen. Elia continued to be a visionary supporter for additional phases of museum expansion, including the installation of the hospital train car, and other indoor and outdoor exhibit areas, outdoor amphitheater, and the Medal of Honor Walk," Smith said.  

As the decorated veteran celebrates becoming a centenarian, he continues many of his volunteer activities, to include working at the museum and in the community.  

Since his retirement, Elia has held many positions with the City of Garden Ridge, a San Antonio suburb, including leading efforts involving planning and zoning, revitalization of park spaces, mobile security forces, water department board of directors, and he led efforts for the revitalization of city hall.  He and his wife became the 180th and 181st citizens of the city in 1977. 

“Gen. Elia is a shining example of someone who dedicated his life in service to his country and his community,” said Robb Erickson, mayor of Garden Ridge. “Long after he retired from military service, Gen. Elia continued to build the community he lives in and strengthen the bonds that make Garden Ridge such a wonderful place to call home. He is a great American and resident of Garden Ridge and we honor him on this momentous occasion.” 

Elia’s service awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with one oak leaf cluster, Defense Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, American Defense Service Medal, WWII Victory Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster.