Smokey, with VAW-11 aircraft, ready to launch from the deck of the USS Hancock (CV-19) in the Pacific in 1957.

It was President John F. Kennedy who said, “Any man who is asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, ‘I served in the United States Navy.’”

And it was Lieutenant Commander Richard “Smokey” Stover who took those words to heart, and still does to this day. Those words explain Smokey’s love for the Navy and the very generous gift he gave the Society to help Sailors, Marines, and their families when they’re in need.

Surprisingly, Smokey never planned on a career in the Navy, even though he was in the Navy Reserves in high school. Instead, he went to college to study industrial engineering, fully expecting to make that his career. Upon graduation, he was employed by a prominent steel company, but soon became disillusioned. As luck would have it, Smokey received a letter from the Navy offering him the opportunity to attend Officer Candidate School. Commissioned in 1955, and liking the Navy more and more, Smokey applied and was augmented to the regular Navy.

And what an amazing career it was. Smokey did tours of duty with Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW-11) aboard the USS Hancock (CV-19) and USS Ranger (CV-61), along with a Maintenance Squadron (VR-6) tour of duty at McGuire Air Force Base, and as an Air Intercept Control instructor at Naval Air Station Glynco. He served during Vietnam aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and on the staff of Commander Second Fleet aboard the flag ship USS Newport News (CA-148). He did a tour of duty at the Navy Fleet Anti-Air Warfare Training Center in Virginia, and a tour flying with the Navy’s Hurricane Hunters aboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville. He also did a tour of duty serving as the Operations Officer of Commander Tactical Support Squadron Wing One at Naval Air Station Norfolk before retiring.

His most challenging assignment was in Vietnam, where he was in charge of directing four to five airborne division leaders of strike aircraft. Smokey had to monitor the strike aircraft on his radar scope, give them vectors to and from their targets, relay target information to Strike Ops, and conduct air-to-air refueling intercepts for aircraft low on fuel. He endured long shifts, day after day, week after week, always hoping for a safe return of each aircraft.

What Smokey is most proud of is his work in air-controlled intercepts. “I think I probably conducted more air intercepts than just about anyone,” he says. “In fact, when I did my 10,000th intercept, they acknowledged me on the USS Enterprise.” There was a ceremony in the Combat Information Center with an admiral present, along with two F-4 Phantom pilots. “They even had a cake for me,” Smokey says, “and I cut the cake with a sword.”

And so, after beginning as a seaman apprentice, serving for 5 years in the Navy Reserves, and serving for 20 years as an officer, Smokey retired as lieutenant commander. “After retirement,” he says, “I donated to the Society through an allotment from my military retiree pay. I always believed the Society does good work. I am only too glad to contribute.”

But his support doesn’t stop there. He’s also included an amazing gift for the Society through his estate. Early in his Navy career, Smokey began investing in stocks, annuities, and other investments. He also set up a revocable living trust and a charitable remainder trust. All these investments are part of his estate.

Smokey (second from left) in 1968 at his farewell from COMSECONDFLT.

In a gesture of his commitment to service, he has named the Society as a beneficiary in his will, providing an extremely generous gift that will help Sailors, Marines, and their families for years to come.

Smokey loves the Navy and admires everyone who serves. In fact, his commitment runs so deep that he’s petitioning the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee of the U.S. Post Office to issue a commemorative stamp honoring the Sullivan brothers. The five brothers enlisted in the Navy in World War II with the stipulation that they serve together, and all five perished when their ship was torpedoed. Getting a commemorative stamp issued to honor the Sullivan brothers has been a life-long cause for Smokey, just like his support for the Society.

His special gift for the Society means so much to him. “It gives me a contented feeling that I’m doing something worthwhile to help Sailors and Marines,” he says. “I think of this gift as my legacy of service to the Navy and to Sailors and Marines wherever they’re serving.”

If you would like to learn more about ways to support tomorrow’s Sailors, Marines, and their families through a gift in your will, please visit


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