Retiree Dedicates Life To Others' Well-being
(March 30, 2010)
Retired Col. Steve dePyssler speaks at a function in 2008 at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. Colonel dePyssler is the Barksdale AFB Retiree Affairs Office director, and has worked for the past 70 years of his life. Courtesy photo
| ||BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (3/25/2010 - AFNS) -- The average retirement age in the United States is 67, according to www.ssa.gov; however, a 90-year-old veteran here still works and has no plans to stop in the near future.|
Retired Col. Steve dePyssler, the Barksdale Air Force Base Retiree Affairs Office director, has worked for the past 70 years of his life, first with active duty and now as an RAO volunteer.
As a young adult, Colonel dePyssler was involved in athletics and was recognized as the Illinois state boxing and basketball champion. While sports were very important to him, he decided to leave it behind for a bigger purpose.
"I was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Chicago, but the draft came along," Colonel dePyssler said. "I decided to gain weight, get a little bigger, and accept the draft in 1940. I spent one year in the service before the war came along and was promoted to first sergeant within one year."
In the following years, Sergeant dePyssler was involved with the initial cadre of 8th Air Force that was activated at Savannah Army Air Base where he accompanied troops to England on the Queen Mary. Later, the sergeant was offered to attend officer school with the British and upon graduation, received his commission.
After leaving Europe, Lieutenant dePyssler came back to the U.S. and soon met his future wife. However, he was shipped off to war again shortly after he married. Once the war was over, the military decided it did not need him within its officer corps, and he
|returned to his old rank as a master sergeant. However, the sergeant received his commission again and made it through the ranks to O-6 where he, as the chief of supply, worked with Strategic Air Command.|
|"I transferred from the Army to the Air Force in the 1950s," he said. "I had the choice to stay in the Army or go into Air Force for logistics. Even while in the Army I was in the Army Air Corps. It was a simple transition to go into the Air Force. It's a little different in how they operate, and in my personal opinion, it's better to be in the Air Force."|
Throughout his career, he was known for his drive and dedication to the mission, straightforwardness and zero-tolerance for laziness, as one off-base official was eyewitness to.
"I was assigned to Headquarters Strategic Air Command in the mid-11200s," said Bossier City Mayor Lorenz Walker. "I was a major and he was a colonel. We were both in logistics. One day I had to go down and brief him on something; he was the chief of supply."
During the briefing, Major Walker was quickly spun up on Colonel dePyssler's work ethic.
"He was like, 'Don't bother me with insignificant stuff. Get on with it,'" Mayor Walker said. "From there we developed a mutual respect."
After having held every enlisted, warrant officer and Army specialist rank during 38 years of service, Colonel dePyssler retired at the age of 60 at Barksdale AFB from what he calls, "a pretty good career."
However, the newly-retired officer did not immerse himself into a life of leisure. True to form, he went back to work as a retiree association volunteer at Barksdale AFB.
"I was 60 years old and had 38 years of service," Colonel dePyssler said. "I had job offers, but they were overseas. I couldn't get enthusiastic about moving overseas again after I had spent about 14 years of my military career overseas. I had enough. What led me to volunteer was my experience in casualty affairs. It was a shame to let it go after I retired, and I needed something to do. I had handled casualties in World War II and in SAC, so it seemed like the natural thing for me to do because of my background and experience."
Luckily, Colonel dePyssler found his niche in volunteering.
"It was a perfect fit for me to be a volunteer," he said. "It's a pleasure to meet people and to be able to say, 'I have helped them.' I can't imagine the number of lives I've helped and there's no way you can put a dollar amount to it. It's a good feeling. Yes, I had a tremendous military career. Yes, I got involved, but bottom line is I helped more people volunteering than I ever did in the service."
Mayor Walker has witnessed the affect Colonel dePyssler's volunteer work has had on individuals.
"What he's done for the retirees is almost unbelievable," Mayor Walker said. "Many retirees don't understand their benefits or entitlements. He has helped widows come to the office with nothing but a commissary bag full of receipts and paperwork. He would help them go piece by piece to make sure they get everything they're entitled to.
"The word unique is overused but he is a unique individual," he continued. "Even today at the age of 90, he has more energy than most elderly people. Sometimes he has a little rough edge, but that's because he doesn't have a lot of tolerance for people who procrastinate. He wants to get things done and is a little impatient when people aren't like that. But there's no one who has done more for the retirees than Colonel Steve dePyssler."
His contributions can also be seen throughout the local area. Colonel dePyssler spearheaded projects for the local veteran's home, the War Veteran's Memorial and the installation of the Avenue of Flags at the Bossier City Civic Center. Additionally, he heads the annual Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Luncheon, an event that brings 800 individuals to Barksdale AFB. Even with these accomplishments, Colonel dePyssler said he feels his job is not finished.
"My goal is to keep working, and every day is a challenge," Colonel dePyssler said. "When you get to be 90 years old, sometimes you wake up in the morning feeling like you're 100 years old. My goal is to be able to come to work. I've got two new knees, new hips, and when you get to be my age walking is a serious problem. Most injuries to the elderly are a result of falling. I've already fallen twice and I have to be extremely careful. But my goal is to make it to 95 years old and then find someone to take my job."
Mayor Walker is amazed with Colonel dePyssler's achievements.
"We're close friends and I consider him to be one of the most outstanding individuals I've ever met in my life," the mayor said. "His work ethic then and now is very similar. He's very knowledgeable, extraverted and has no patience for those who don't do the job. If I were in need of a pint of blood, I would want it to be Colonel dePyssler blood."
|By Sr. Airman Alyssa C. Wallace|
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Reprinted from Air Force News Service
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