Charles Russell Thompson was born in October of 1941 and grew up in the county just west of St. Louis. He was the second oldest in the family, with one brother and two sisters. Thompson spent his childhood playing outside and enjoyed attending local CYC (Catholic Youth Council) dances, where he ended up meeting his future wife, Elizabeth. During high school, he enjoyed watching Elizabeth play softball while they were dating. He also lettered in the band as a trumpet player and even had the opportunity to play at the Fox Theater in St. Louis. After graduating in 1959, he decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy.
Upon finishing his basic naval training in San Diego, Thompson was sent to NAES Lakehurst Navy Base in Lakehurst, NJ, for 32 weeks of Class A School for Meteorology. It was there he learned to use instruments to monitor weather characteristics such as air pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind speed and direction. That information is then distributed to aircraft, ships, and shore-based command centers. Once meteorology training was complete, Thompson was stationed at NAWS China Lake Navy Base in China Lake, CA, for the next three years but did make it home to marry his girlfriend, Elizabeth in 1963.
After he was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1965 as an E5 Petty Officer Second Class, Thompson returned home. Once he was back in the Midwest, Thompson and his wife Elizabeth owned several businesses while raising five children. In 1973, Thompson decided to enlist in the Army National Guard. When asked what drove him to re-enlist, he stated, “I liked the military association but wanted to stay close to my family.”
As a Master Sergeant in the Army National Guard, Thompson worked as an engineer/mechanic. His unit was responsible for maintaining and running equipment to soldiers locally or deployed. Like Guard soldiers themselves, every piece of equipment must be ready to answer the call, for any mission, at any time. During his twenty-two years in the National Guard, Thompson helped out with emergency response all over the state of Missouri. Even sending help to his daughter, after receiving a collect call, that she was stranded in a blizzard during a pro-life march. Within a couple of hours, everyone that had been brought inside a local gymnasium, had doughnuts and hot chocolate. Since he was working locally, all of his five children were lucky enough to experience his job with him at one point, even learning to drive in a military jeep. It also allowed him to be a boy scout leader for his son’s troop. Thompson did have his time away, spending time in Honduras and Panama during peacetime helping build bridges and roads for different communities. In Honduras, the locals would catch and grill large iguanas for them to share for dinner. Thompson recalled, “They would fry it up for us, but you could only eat the tail. It tasted like chicken.”
After retiring from his long military career at the age of 52, Thompson liked to spend time outdoors, going on family float trips, or riding his Harley Davidson. He continued to work through retirement at a local golf course. After 54 years of marriage and five children, he now has 12 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. He still loves to spend time outdoors and likes to ride around in his golf cart that was designed to look just like a Harley Davidson.
Veterans Care Coordination is proud to recognize Charles Russell Thompson for his service to our country. We are privileged to have the opportunity to share the stories of our nation’s heroes.