The Daily

They Got A Name For The Winners In The World

His friends called him Colonel. And he died the other day in the town where he grew up – Parkersburg, West Virginia.

John Pfalzgraf was a child of The Greatest Generation. He worked for banks and accounting firms throughout his life but was mostly known as a fighter pilot (Marine during Viet Nam and Air Force with the Air National Guard in Pittsburgh after). He lived as he served – with seriousness, honesty, honor, toughness and integrity. The diabetes slowed him down later in life, but never stopped him from getting out for his 0500 rounds.

The war he fought was not popular. Not for any that served. But as far as he was concerned, the draft was on and he didn’t have a choice. Choices were for fat cats. I see lots of those fat cats on my TV all the time talking tough about sending more American children into hot combat – usually not their own.

The Colonel may have flown missions over my Uncle Reed, laying with his weapon on a hot, wet Asian jungle floor. He may have flown out of Chu Lai when my Dad was with the 82nd Airborne investigating a JAG case there. We abandoned Chu Lai in 1971. And The Colonel, Reed and Dad are all gone now.

Yesterday, the TV told me that John McCain has a malignant glioma in his brain. McCain’s Father was a four star Navy Admiral and he could have called his shot during the VietNam draft. He called for combat duty and willingly remained a prisoner of war when offered release – rather than leave his men behind or denigrate his Country.

Tom Brokaw won’t call them The Greatest Generation. That tag is taken. But their service and sacrifice is unique in our American tale. They served when others could have, should have and didn’t. They each carried the scars of their wartime experiences for their remaining days. In many ways, it defined who they were and cast a long shadow over their other accomplishments in life. As the dying Stonewall Jackson said, “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Rest In Peace, John Pfalzgraf