The security guards at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Main Gate know 94-year-old Chandler Caughie by the age of his identification card.
"The guards comment that his military ID is the oldest they've ever seen," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Spaulding during a recent visit with Caughie.
The card was issued during the 1950s. Caughie served in the Coast Guard and the Navy as a radio operator, retiring in 1975.
As for Spaulding, assigned to C Company, 1-112th Aviation Battalion, he met Caughie just over a year ago. A bond of respect and admiration quickly ensued.
"We developed a friendship based on military camaraderie," said Spaulding. "We have a lot in common as service members."
One of those qualities is the spirit of independence and humor that pervades Caughie's life.
"He has a great sense of humor, albeit it is spiced with a bit of stubbornness," said Spaulding.
One of Caughie's ideas - laced with humorous intent - is to enlist Spaulding in order to escape from the convalescent and rehabilitation center that is his home. He recently moved into the center due to failing health.
Their friendship deepened, and Spaulding takes Caughie to JBLM Main to visit the PX and to get a haircut at Kim's Barber Shop (also known as the Fort Lewis Cascade Community Club Barber Shop).
"He likes to poke around the PX for a while; he gets a haircut and sometimes gets something to eat," said Spaulding.
As for Caughie, he loves to talk about his past and what it means to him.
"It was a great trail to follow, the tradition of serving," he said with a grin and a twinkle in his eyes. "I've had adventures beyond belief," continued Caughie. "I could wear you out with my stories."
When it became apparent that Caughie was no longer able to travel to JBLM Main, Spaulding approached the barbers at Kim's and asked if they would be willing to visit Caughie and give him a haircut.
Two of them did.
"It broke my heart to visit with him," said Kim, who declined to give her last name.
"But whenever he came in to the barbershop, he was always positive and would talk with soldiers and make them feel proud."
Kim and another stylist recently traveled to the center and gave Caughie a haircut.
"Neither woman complained, and they both were very kind to him," said Spaulding.
Neither accepted payment for their work.
Caughie could not have been happier; he made it clear that he thought he had had the best haircut he'd ever received.
After reflecting for a moment, he looked up and quietly said regarding Spaulding, "You'd have to dig and scratch to find a better friend."
He's half right.
One has to work hard to find a man with the good humor and spirit of veteran Chandler Caughie as he prepares for his last sailing.