“Always Dream Big” has been a quote that my wife and I continually share with our four children. This dream big mindset was handed down to me by my father, Ben Dichoso Sr. He always started his dream big story with, “I was a young Filipino boy sitting on a carabao at our family farm.” In case you did not know, a carabao is a Philippine water buffalo. Besides sitting on that carabao, my father loved to watch American western movies. He dreamed of being a cowboy. Little did he know, dreams do come true to those who take action to make it happen.
Western Movie Matinee
In a small movie theater along the busy streets of Manila, a young Filipino boy sits in amazement. He enjoys the cowboys and chiefs that run across the theater screen. His favorite Western movies starred John Wayne and Burt Lancaster. This boy was Ben Sr. who dreamed of being an American cowboy one day like his favorite movie stars. The question was, “how was a son of a Filipino farmer going to be a cowboy in America which was thousand of miles away from Manila?” Only a miracle could make this happen. Ben Sr. often prayed for this miracle. Then one day he was encouraged by a friend to join the U.S. Navy. The U.S. government was recruiting Filipinos at Sangley Point, who would eventually end up fighting for America during the Vietnam War. This was Ben Sr.’s chance to begin his journey to achieve his American dream. So in January 1961, he joined the U.S Navy in hopes of being an American Cowboy.
When he got off the airplane, he took a bus to a place called Treasure Island. Ben Sr. thought wow the Navy is taking me to an island full of treasure. Little did he know, the island would be only a stopping point to boot camp where he would learn to find the treasure within himself. Treasure Island is located between San Francisco and Oakland. After a few days on Treasure Island, Ben Sr. boarded a railroad train for San Diego. As he sat on the train, Ben Sr. looked out the window and saw hills that looked like the ones in the old Western movies that he watched in Manila. He wondered if a Native American Chief with his brave warriors would come rushing down from hills to chase his train. Ben Sr. was stuck looking out the train window in anticipation. The train arrived in San Diego with no incidents.
Ben was sent to San Diego for Navy boot camp, where new recruits were trained and transformed into sailors. These sailors were being prepared for the trials, struggles, and battles that awaited them within the Vietnam War. After training, Ben Sr. had numerous assignments within the Pacific Theater including an aircrew assignment with a P-3 Squadron. He found himself a steward in a P-3 Orion aircraft looking for enemy submarines in the Pacific Ocean. For the next three years, his P-3 squadron traveled all over the Pacific Theater but eventually, Ben Sr. found himself back in Manila. After an introduction of a friend, Ben Sr. met Olivia Austria in Manila. Olivia was the first cousin of his friend. Ben Sr. and Olivia married in 1967 and found their way to Washington, D.C. in 1969. Ben Sr.’s brother, Joe, lived near the Capital city and was stationed at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Finally, on the mainland, Ben Sr.’s American Cowboy dream could take root and begin to grow.
Big Red Barn
In 1980, Ben Sr. and his wife, Olivia, purchased a farm that came with two horses and a Big Red Barn. They leverage equity from their first home on Binyon Court in Fort Washington, Maryland, to obtain money to purchase the farm. Buying the farm with the Big Red Barn completed Ben Sr.’s dream of being an American cowboy. The horses that came with the farm were too wild to be ridden. They lived in the Big Red Barn that overlooked a 3.5-acre fish pond. When the horses were not in the barn, they ran freely across the 16-acre farm just like the Western movies that Ben Sr. watched when he was young. He went on to fill his Virginia farm with cows, chickens, goats, pigs, and other livestock. You probably are asking how did he take care of these animals when he still had a job in the Capital city. Ben Sr. and Olivia helped many family members by allowing them to live free on the farm. The family members in turn cared for the Big Red Barn along with all the livestock in it. Ben Sr. became a weekend cowboy in Virginia. His dream of being a cowboy was achieved.
Later, Ben Sr. sold the farm after his brother-in-law, Mario, died and it was too hard to take care of the livestock by himself. After selling the farm, he and his wife reinvested the money into a rental house in Alexandria, Virginia. They now focused on helping their only son, Ben Jr., daughter-in-law, Jen, and their four grandchildren. Ben Sr. and Olivia reset their American Dream to focus on the next generation and updated their goals to invest in the education and the future of their grandchildren. Currently, Ben Sr. and Olivia live happily together in their American Dream House with Ben Jr., Jen, and four grandchildren (Benedict, Victoria, Katharine, and Elizabeth) in the small town of Dumfries, Virginia.
Chief Dichoso Rises
Ben Sr. believes each generation of a family must take at least one to two stair steps up the success staircase of life. His father did not finish high school but he finished elementary school and was a successful farmer and recognized town council representative. Ben Sr. took his first stair-step up when he finished high school in the Philippines. As he prepared for his next step up, he studied medicine in college but due to lack of funds, he decided to join the U.S. Navy. Of course, the Navy also enable his dream of being a cowboy. It would be nearly 20 years before college was back in his sights.
Ben Sr. had a long U.S. Navy (USN) career. We’ll save his adventures in the Navy for future blog stories. The topping of his USN career was when he rises through the ranks to become a Chief Petty Officer in the Spring of 1976. Chief Dichoso rises from being a weekend cowboy on a Virginia farm to a USN Chief Petty Officer in The White House. He supported three Presidents of the United States to include President Nixon, President Ford, and President Carter. The rank of USN Chief was a very prestigious position for the enlisted ranks. The Chiefs controlled and ran the naval logistic offices and supply systems around the world. In the Navy, Filipino Chiefs were known to lead and rule the Navy enlisted ranks and were admired as the top chiefs. You could not get anything done in the Navy without them. All Admirals and Captains knew if a mission needed to be completed get a Filipino Chief on the job.
Even after rising up the ranks, Chief Dichoso felt something was missing in his life. There was an emptiness that needed to be filled. He recalled a saying from his father, Pedro Dichoso, “the government can take away your land and house, they can even take the clothes on your back but one thing they can’t take away is your education.” Pedro sold several tracks of land to send his first four children to college. When it was time for his fifth and last child, Ben Sr., the money ran out. The emptiness felt by Ben Sr. was the desire to finish college. He restarted his college pursuit at night after a long day of work in The White House. He eventually graduated from George Washington University in 1979. After 20 years, he finally took that second step up the success staircase. Ben Sr. followed his college graduation with a retirement from the Navy on August 31, 1980. Chief Dichoso continued to rise and went on to be an auditor for the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, retiring for the second time on January 1, 2003.
Ben Sr. never lost sight of his dreams of being an American cowboy and college graduate. His story inspires us to never stop dreaming big. He always reminds his family if they can do it you can do it. The “they”, Ben Sr. is referring to, are all the dreamers in the world who got off their butts and made it happen. You can dream all you want, but It takes action to make a dream a reality.
Ben Dichoso Jr.
“Always Dream Big ”
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