Remembering a 101-year-old legacy

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tessa B. Corrick
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

A memorial service was held on base to remember and pay tribute to the life-long service and legacy of the director of retiree affairs for Barksdale, July 31, 2020.

Retired Col. Steven L. dePyssler, who served 38 years in the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Air Force, and the past 41 years volunteering with the retiree affairs department, passed away July 25, 2020.

He is believed to be the only known American to have served in World War II, the Korean War, the French Indo-China War, the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Vietnam War. He celebrated his 101st birthday just four days before his passing

The ceremony consisted of guest speakers who spoke on his accomplishments, his many years of dedication to the Air Force, to the state of Louisiana and the Barksdale community.  Barksdale’s honor guard provided the military funeral honors.

“He represents the sacrifice [and] the dedication that is the best of humanity - what we should all want and desire to achieve in our own lives,” said Retired Air Force Col. Michael Dilda, president of the Ark-La-Tex chapter of the Military Officers Association of America and close friend to dePyssler, during the ceremony. “Steve represented an infinite view of the game of life. The infinite view is one that's characterized by a never ending desire to improve. A unique legacy spent over a career of helping others. It was my advantage and distinct pleasure to have the opportunity to work with him and get to know him - to have him call me a friend.”

Since dePyssler was such an influential figure, a decision was made to memorialize his life forever at Barksdale. Last year, during his 100th birthday celebration, a building renaming was announced to pay tribute to him. Then in November of 2019, the newly established Col. dePyssler Mission Support Group building was unveiled.

During the memorial service, Dr. Bruce dePyssler, son of dePyssler, offered the final remarks. Thanking multiple people in and around base for all they have done for his family and telling stories from his life growing up with his father.

“He was loyal to his wife, to his family, to his troops, to the vets, to the Air Force and to the beloved country,” Dr. dePyssler said as he began to be stricken with emotion. “He is fair. He is open. He accepted others.”

“I do not know what natural and divine forces were conjured up to give us this life, this consciousness that we have. This ability that we have to hope, and love, and suffer. This ability to know what we do and do not know. This ability to shape our destiny in large and small ways,” Dr. dePyssler added. “One thing I do know is that I learned from my father that this gift of life and consciousness is not something to be squandered.”

dePyssler held every enlisted, warrant officer and officer rank during his career from the rank of private to colonel. He was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal four separate times for his outstanding service.

“Col. dePyssler loved all veterans, but his heart was always with the Air Force and his heart was always with Barksdale,” said Retired Army Col. Joey Strickland, Secretary of Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, during the ceremony. “His service to veterans brings to mind one of my favorite quotes. General Omar Bradley in 1948 when he was serving as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs said, ‘We are dealing with veterans, not procedures. We are dealing with their problems, not ours.’ That is just what Col. Steve dePyssler did every day. I always knew that I could count on him for anything I needed to get done for veterans, especially here in the Northwest.”

While volunteering at the retiree office, he dedicated his time to helping military retirees, their widows, widowers, parents and children through the process of obtaining and understanding retirement benefits.

“His goal was, and I quote, ‘to help one person a day, for as long as I live. That’s my goal, and it has been for years and years and years,’” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Gebara, Air Force Global Strike Command director of strategic plans, programs and requirements and former 2nd Bomb Wing commander, during the ceremony. “Well to do the math, for the amount of time he was running the retiree affairs office, if you add 365 days a year, and you have to add 10 for 10 leap years mind you, that means Col. dePyssler’s goal was to help 14,975 people. And he did. He spent countless days helping widows navigate the bureaucratic world of the military life without their spouses. And he worked tirelessly to honor veterans.”

Although he has passed, generations today and for years to come will forevermore be able to learn and be inspired through the life and legacy the retired colonel provided everyday since his enlistment in 1940.

“Steve, we all remember that you were here. We remember that you stood up for what was right. And you left this world a better place,” Gebara said as he turned to face dePyssler’s photo on the wall. “I hope you know that the men and women of Barksdale will miss you. And I will too.”