Veteran Showcase: David Lees doesn’t let life get in the way of his fun lifestyle

David Lees Sr. enjoys rocks, minerals and panning for gold. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

Even in his retirement years, nothing slows down Navy veteran David Lees Sr. He spends his time renovating his home in Terwillger, attending rock and mineral exhibitions and panning for gold.

“I’ve been trying to slow him down, he just keeps going,” Lee’s wife Donna said.

The Lees moved to Anza in 2015.

“We came through here when I was a kid with my dad pretty regularly. I love it up here.” he said.

Lees has an extensive history with the U.S. Navy as an operations specialist, and he was deployed all over the world.

Navy operations specialists provide technical information and assistance to the command for anti-surface warfare, anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, amphibious warfare, mine warfare, naval gunfire support and search and rescue operations, and other matters.

Lees was deployed to the Caribbean from 1982 to 1984, then to the West Pacific from 1984 to 1985. He had shore duty at Naval Air Station North Island, located at the north end of the Coronado peninsula on San Diego Bay. This base is the home port of several aircraft carriers of the United States Navy. He served there from 1985 to 1989 as a member of the Armed Forces police force.

Next, he was deployed to the West Pacific from 1989 to 1995.

“I rescued the kids in Granada,” Lees said. “And rescued five souls and a chaplain in a helicopter. I refused a Bronze Star.”

He also experienced deployments during the Gulf War, during one of which his ship, the USS Tripoli, struck a floating mine.

“I went to Somalia, Rio, Mombasa, Africa; basically I have been around the world twice,” he said.

He escorted Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, and had breakfast with Clinton on the USS Tripoli.

Lees stood guard on Air Force One, escorted America’s Cup participants around San Diego, thus becoming a lifetime member of the San Diego Yacht Club.

He was honorably discharged as an petty officer second class.

After such a notable career, it is no wonder he keeps busy.

“After moving to Anza, I started a place called Dave’s Acre on our property, developing an idea of creating a place where vets can share their hobbies with other vets,” he said. “One of my hobbies is gold panning, and I like to share my knowledge. I had a few vets come out then shut it down due to lack of interest. However, I received a letter of recognition from D.A.V. National Adjunct for this idea.”

Lees has worked a variety of jobs, and as he said, “I basically went to school learning different things.”

Today he can be found tinkering with his gold panning tools, fixing the house and being “Mr. Nice Guy,” always willing to lend a helpful hand when needed, according to his wife.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at