On Thursday, President Donald Trump met with 106-year-old Ray Chavez, the oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran.

Chavez fought in World War II and helped ferry troops aboard the troop transport La Salle. However, prior to participating in eight battles from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, he played a part in the first American action in the war. (RELATED: Pearl Harbor Hero Laid to Rest on the USS Arizona).

On Dec. 7, 1941, Chavez was working aboard the Condor, a San Diego fishing boat that had been converted into a minesweeper and stationed in Hawaii. The Condor was cruising near Pearl Harbor early that morning when a lookout spotted a submarine. Chavez couldn’t see the intruder at the helm, but when a friend relieved him, he walked to the boat’s port side and scanned the sea. “All I saw was a periscope,” he told the San Diego Tribune.

The Condor reported the sighting around 3:50 a.m. At 6:37 a.m., the destroyer Ward sighted and attacked the sub, more than an hour before the Japanese Zeros would attack.

Chavez had gone home to bed when the assault on Pearl Harbor commenced. His late wife awoke him, screaming: “Get up, get up! We are being attacked!”

At first, Chavez didn’t believe her. But he went to the window and was stunned. “The whole harbor was on fire,” he said. “It was terrible, really terrible.”

Following the war, Chavez worked as a landscaper and handyman – it was only recently that he started showing his age. He walked without a cane until age 97, didn’t need glasses until age 98, and didn’t need a hearing aid until age 101. So what’s his secret? Well, he works out with a personal trainer twice a week and makes sure to eat right. “I have no secret except I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I try to eat a balanced meal,” he said. “I just keep on going.”

As for his part in history, Chavez is just glad he experienced it. “I’m glad I did my part and went through all those military exercises, being in the war and everything,” he said. “I was a small part of that.”

Make sure to thank a veteran for your freedom this Memorial Day weekend!

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