Fort Smith Veteran Surprised at 90th Birthday Party

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) – A World War II Navy veteran who lives in Fort Smith turned 90 on Saturday (June 13).

His birthday party was planned -- but there were a few surprises.

Chester Lee Bean celebrated his birthday at Wesley United Methodist Church surrounded by his friends and family.

"I didn't realize I had that many friends and relatives!” he said.

After everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and he blew out his candles, Bean could tell something unusual was about to happen.

Retired Col. Anita Deason, who works for United States Senator John Boozman, was an unexpected party guest.

“Mr. Bean, you have the heart of a servant,” Deason said at the party.

She was referring to the combined 30 years of Bean's life that he has dedicated to serving in the U.S. Navy, and with the Fort Smith Police Department. He served with the department from 1955-1975, and was the assistant chief for the second half of his time there. He also served on the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol team.

"I joined the Navy in January of 1943,” Bean said.

He was aboard the USS Raleigh in WWII, and served in the Naval Reserve in Fort Smith after the war.

One by one, Bean was presented four medals honoring his time in the Navy -- medals he knew he would receive, but didn't know when they would arrive.

He was awarded the Navy Good Conduct medal, WWII Victory medal, American Campaign medal and the Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal.

"I’m glad that I’m a citizen of the United States,” Bean said. “I'm proud of our country -- and I'm proud that I served our country, both in the military and in the public.”

June 13th has officially been declared “Chester Lee Bean Day” in Fort Smith, according to City Director Kevin Settle.