Air Force Colonel Charles “Vas” Vasiliadis, who was buried in Section 7 on January 9, 2023, left behind a strong legacy of military service that not only affected the nation, but personally affected at least two people attending his funeral: his son Douglas and granddaughter Sophia.
Colonel Vasiliadis served three tours in the skies over Vietnam. He flew A-1E Skyraiders during his first tour, and then F-105 Thunderchiefs on his second two tours. He strafed and bombed enemy positions in support of American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam and bombed heavily defended positions in North Vietnam. On May 3, 1967, during his second tour, enemy fire hit his F-105 during a bombing run. He ejected from his damaged aircraft, injuring his leg in the process, and was rescued within 36 minutes. By the time he left the war zone, he had flown 560 combat missions and earned numerous awards, including two Silver Stars, two Legion of Merit medals, five Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Purple Heart.
Upon his burial, Vasiliadis joined his wife Joan, who passed away on June 22, 2022. At the funeral service—after the prayers, the firing of volleys and the sounding of Taps—Vasiliadis’s son Douglas reflected on growing up with a father at war. “I took the phone call when my father was shot down,” said Mr. Vasiliadis, who was only six years old at the time. “I could tell it was something important because my mother turned white.” Yet the young Vasiliadis knew no other way growing up. “I supposed as a child it was normal.”
Colonel Vasiliadis’ legacy also affected his granddaughter Sophia Vasiliadis, who is now a captain in the U.S. Air Force. “I never thought I would join the military,” she said, but her grandfather encouraged her to look at the service academies. To encourage her grandfather during an illness, Captain Vasiliadis applied to the Air Force Academy “with no intention of ever going.” But after visiting the academy, she was hooked. “I flip-flopped from it not being a real choice to my first choice, and he lived for another twelve years to see me through it,” she said.
Captain Vasiliadis admits that, when growing up, she did not fully understand her grandfather’s service. “I just knew my grandpa was a fighter pilot,” she said. That has changed due to her own service. “Now that I’ve been in the Air Force, I have so much more of an appreciation of everything that he did.” Today, Captain Vasiliadis flies HC-130 Hercules transport aircraft out of Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.
With his legacy secured, Colonel Vasiliadis wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. “My father cherished this place,” explained Douglas Vasiliadis. “My mother is here already. There is nowhere he would have rather been.”