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Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles, a True Patriot and National Hero Who Doubled as a Tourism Pioneer

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First Published: 22nd of January, 2021 by Patrick Carpen

Last updated: December 15, 2023 at 20:21 pm

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles served in the GDF for over 40 years and bravely defended the contested Essequibo Region. He was very vocal in his support for Guyana’s sovereignty, but it didn’t stop there. Michael Charles flew a mission to the border with Venezuela when tensions were high between the two countries and troops had amassed on both sides. That mission, still clouded in mystery, cost him his life along with the lives of 4 other national heroes. It is safe to say then that Colonel Lieutenant Michael Charles died in service to his country, protecting his country and his people from invaders, and in defense of the Essequibo.

Here’s a brief biographical sketch of Michael Charles provided by the Guyana Government.

Born on June 2, 1962, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles commenced his dedicated career of service to the country of Guyana on March 1, 1981, at the age of 18. His enlistment marked the beginning of 40 years of exemplary and devoted service, navigating the skies above Guyana’s extensive hinterland and borders.

In the early part of his career, he served at the 1 Infantry Battalion as a Platoon Commander before venturing into aviation in 1984. Upon joining the Air Corps, he assumed the role of a Trainee Pilot, endowing the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) and Guyana with a pilot and patriot whose immeasurable love for his country was witnessed by all.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles served as an officer for 29 years before retiring in 2010. Throughout his service, he completed various military and aviation courses. His dedication was recognized with the Military Efficiency Medal in 1997, awarded during the 16th year of service. He also received the 40th Anniversary Medal.

Returning to service in 2011, Lieutenant Colonel Charles dedicated the last 12 years to the GDF Air Corps. His expertise proved invaluable in search and rescue operations and medical evacuations. His extensive aviation training included Commercial Pilot Certification in China, Bell 412 Helicopter Refresher in Barbados, Helicopter Instrument in Aruba, Bell 412 Pilot Training, and the Bell 412 Pilot Recurrent Training as well as the Bell 206 Helicopter Ground and Flight training in the United States of America. In 2021, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Widely known as Mike Charles, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles lived and died in service. His years in the skies were shared with all Guyanese, as he captured and conveyed the wonders of the vast country through videos and images. While his infectious smile, wonderful anecdotes, and commitment to service will be missed, his legacy will endure.

Prime Minister Mark Phillips Hails Michael Charles as a Pioneer in Showcasing Guyana’s Tourism Product.

Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips on the 21st of January, 2021 hailed Captain Michael Charles M.S, as a pioneer in showcasing Guyana’s tourism product to the rest of the world. The PM delivered the keynote address at the launch of Charles’s latest video, the “Sounds and Colours of the Rainforest,” which is the fourth video in a captivating series titled “Guyana -Yours to Discover,” that explores Guyana as an eco-tourism destination.

“Mike Charles has been a pioneer in showcasing Guyana’s tourism product. He has become a frontrunner in our efforts to market our tourism product and to promote Guyana’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost eco-tourism destinations.”

PRIME MINISTER MARK PHILLIPS

The PM, who thanked Charles for his dedication and commitment in producing the videos, added that the latest production in the series confirms Guyana’s potential as a world leader in eco-tourism, and called for the video to be widely circulated.

“Like his other productions, this latest video can become an essential marketing tool. I encourage the sales and marketing arms of our tourism agencies to consider how this video can be deployed to enhance its reach, appeal, and impact”.

PRIME MINISTER MARK PHILLIPS

Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Honourable Oneidge Walrond said that the video is a timely one that can be used to remind potential visitors of Guyana’s beauty during the slowdown in tourism travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is critical to continuously spotlight our destination so that it could remain at the forefront of the minds of visitors delayed by travel restrictions…. I previewed the production and I assure you that it represents a pulsating and exhilarating journey across destination Guyana.”

HON. ONEIDGE WALROND

Additionally, the Minister used the opportunity to underscore the need for more locals to travel across the country. “Every region in Guyana is now actively developing its tourism offerings. This aligns with the need for locals to explore our beautiful country by spending more time visiting local destinations.”

Captain Charles, who has traveled extensively throughout Guyana as a result of 37 years (as of 2021) of service as a pilot in the Guyana Defense Force (GDF), said that he felt compelled to share his experience of Guyana not only locally, but with the rest of the world.

“The sights and sounds that I have seen in those 37 years have been unmatched, the joy and accompanying awe could not remain a personal experience” he said.

The former military officer said his videos continue to be a worthy sacrifice, noting that it took him eight years to produce his latest hour-long piece. “It takes a great deal of financial investment and personal sacrifice to produce these videos… my son was a little boy when I started.”

Flying Over the Ireng River which separates Guyana from Brazil at Region 8.

For the launch at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, the Prime Minister and Tourism Minister were joined by Minister of Public Service, Honourable Sonia Parag, Junior Minister of Housing and Water, Honourable Susan Rodrigues, Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Honourable Pauline Sukhai, Ambassador of the European Union to Guyana, Mr Fernando Ponz Canto and other members of the diplomatic corps.

Michael Charles was unfortunately killed, along with 4 others, in a helicopter crash while flying in Arau near to the Venezuelan border in early November, 2023, after having flown across the country for 40 years. Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles left a legacy for all to remember and his memory will last a lifetime.

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