Old soldiers never die, just live on

Sgt. John Pichler stands with his grandfather retired Marine Sgt. Major Lou Pichler while on 12 days of leave from duty in Iraq. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Sgt. John Pichler stands with his grandfather retired Marine Sgt. Major Lou Pichler while on 12 days of leave from duty in Iraq.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

At the turn of the milinneum, John Pichler was just your average Bremerton High School senior.

Now five years and two conflicts later, Sgt. John Pichler, returned to duty in Iraq on Tuesday after 12 days spent stateside with his grandfather, Lou Pichler, a retired Marine sergeant major who served in Korea and did three tours in Vietnam.

“I’m very proud of my grandson and how he is serving his country,” Lou said. “Naturally you don’t want to see him go, but you know he’s got to.”

The number of yellow ribbons and public displays of support were a pleasant surprise, John said.

“I’ve never seen so many yellow ribbons in my life,” he said. “People respect the soldiers.”

The public displays of support are great for all the soldiers, Lou said.

“It warms my heart to see the support for our soldiers,” he said. “I’ve told him to enjoy being home and be safe and don’t do anything stupid.”

Making the transition from being a soldier in Iraq to being just a civilian has been challenging, John said.

“It’s been different, when you’re trying to become a civilian for the couple of days you’re back,” he said. “You keep putting scenarios in your mind.”

When he was getting a new tattoo at a local tattoo parlor, John said he heard a loud noise outside and ran outside to see what happened.

“I ran outside with my hat on backwards, I was getting a tattoo and I’ve got this pen drawn on it and no shirt on,” he said.

When he saw a man trapped in a car, John said his instincts took over as he broke the car’s rear windshield with his fists, pulled the man out of his car and administered aid until the paramedics arrived.

Once the paramedics arrived, John said he went to the Naval Hospital for treatment of the cuts he sustained rescuing the victim.

“They asked why did you do that you know you’re on leave,” he said. “I said I’m on leave, but I’m a soldier 24/7. Regardless I’m a soldier first, that’s my job. I get paid to do it.”

Spending time with his grandfather has made his brief time away from his men easier because of the bond they share as soldiers.

“It was an honor to have him at the airport when I got there,” John said. “I think it’s good because there’s stuff we can communicate that we both know and someone standing right next to me won’t know what we’re talking about, but we will.”

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