Lt. Gen. Robert D. Chelberg, Class of 1961,
Inducted into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame
Lt. General (retired) Robert D. Chelberg was
inducted into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame in February 2022 for his work as
volunteer chairman of the Wounded Veterans Relief Fund (WVRF). The state
of Florida established the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame in 2013 to recognize
and honor those military veterans who through their works and lives during or
after military service, have made a significant contribution to the state of
Chelberg’s background offers insights to his lifetime of personal
and professional achievement. A member of the West Point class of 1961, Chelberg
served 32 years on active duty. Following retirement as the Chief of Staff for
the European Command in 1993, Chelberg continued to serve in professional roles
related to international security.
Chelberg served as the deputy Director of the George C. Marshall European Center
for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where he led the
development of the center, which addresses regional and transnational security
issues through a unique partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense, and
the German Federal Ministry of Defense. In recognition of his extraordinary
contributions, the secretary of the army awarded Chelberg the Department of
Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service.
In 1995, Chelberg accepted a position with a U.S. defense contractor Cubic. In
that role he became involved with modernizing operational capabilities of Warsaw
Pact nations. Later, from 2003 to 2005, Chelberg worked with aerospace and
defense company Northrop Grumman to help NATO countries improve their
capabilities in nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare. At the conclusion of
his European roles in 2005, Chelberg settled down in Aiken, South Carolina. As a
fully committed resident, Chelberg demonstrated his leadership, planning, and
fundraising skills by assisting in raising $4.2 million to fulfill the city of
Aiken‘s need for a state-of-the-art animal shelter.
In 2011 his wife Vicki came into his life, and they relocated to Palm Beach
County, Florida. Chelberg quickly contributed to the community by joining the
Wounded Veterans Relief Fund. Beginning in 2012 Chelberg initiated a fine-tuning
of its mission and has been president of the board since 2014. Since then, he
has organized a 16 member, all volunteer Board of Directors with representation
from all branches of the military as well as civilians from the community.
Chelberg has bolstered fundraising strategies and established the vision of
continued support and advocacy for Florida’s growing veteran population.
More than 85% of funds raised by WVRF go directly to providing needed services
for Florida’s Purple Heart and disabled veterans, with less than 15% covering
administrative and fundraising costs. Chelberg said that more than 70% of the
services that WVRF provides to support homeless veterans such as one-time funds
for rent and mortgage and utilities. “It is imperative that our veterans get the
assistance they need as quickly as possible, so that they can focus on healing,
on their families, and the road to success,” says Chelberg. WVRF can begin
helping veterans within 24-72 hours after their file has been completed
His top team members at WVRF include Executive Director Michael Durkee, a combat
aviator with experience flying the Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan in support
of Operation Enduring freedom. WVRF’s Vice President is RADM (Ret.) Frank
Drennan who began his service in the United States Navy in 1988.
Chelberg was one of the first of Florida’s leaders of veteran support
to recognize the intricate connection between a veteran’s overall health
and their dental health. Chelberg learned that a majority of veterans
registered with the VA do not receive VA dental treatment. Currently VA
dental treatment is limited to about 8% of veterans. This policy limitation
prevents full spectrum healthcare services for veterans.
In view of this reality Chelberg and his team are working toward improving
dental care for Florida veterans. As a result there is now a dental advisory
board, made up of dental professionals from around the state of Florida. Its
purpose is identifying funding opportunities along with enlisting the support of
local dental professsionals and dental laboratories. In 2021 Chelberg, along
with Dr Tom Roberts and Executive Director Mike Durkee created a team to
spearhead the dental treatment and care of veterans. Also, a WVRF Dental
Advisory Board, made up of dental professionals throughout the state of Florida,
evolved for the purpose of identifying funding opportunities along with
enlisting the support of dental professionals and dental laboratories. To date,
the WVRF’s Dental Advisory Board’s efforts have now attracted more than 50
volunteer dental professionals, as well as generous philanthropists, one of
whom recently donated $300,000 to the WVRF dental program. An important outcome
has been that to date more than more than 150 veterans have received dental
treatment that was previously not available.
Chelberg’s bottom line commitment remains: Constant improvement, which focuses
on strengthening fundraising that is the enabler of healthcare delivery.
In their first year, 2013, WVRF raised just over $135,000. Funds raised have
steadily increased each year, and in the last four years WVRF has been able to
support veterans with more than $1 million annually. 2022 closed out at more
than $2 million raised for Florida’s military veterans.
Chelberg continues his devotion to the Army and it’s veterans and has brought
honor and credit to West Point as well as to our Uniformed Services.