Charles Wesley Kelly was born in August 1931 and graduated from Olympia High School in Columbia, South Carolina, with the class of 1950. Following several semesters at the University of South Carolina, he was called to active duty with the Navy and assigned to the USS Cowell. The ship (DD 547) was a re-commissioned World War II destroyer that had earned eleven battle stars in the Pacific Theater of operations and a Presidential Unit Citation at the battle of Okinawa.
The ship then received an additional two battle stars for action during the conflict in Korea and was running carrier escort duties when the ceasefire agreement was reached in June of 1953. The author was discharged in September following the long voyage home during which the ship was dispatched to show the flag in numerous ports, all the way from Japan up through the Suez Canal and on both sides of the Mediterranean, before arriving at its home port in Norfolk, Virginia.