Navy Cross recipient remembers bravery of comrades during Vietnam War

Nov 2, 2023, 4:15 AM

Herbert Pierpan is one of the seven grand marshals at the 2023 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade. (Honoring America's Veterans Photo)

(Honoring America's Veterans Photo)

This is the first of seven articles highlighting the grand marshals of the 2023 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade.

PHOENIX — After graduating from Springfield College in 1961, Col. Herbert E. Pierpan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He served various roles in the military, including platoon commander to battalion assistant S-3 officer before being promoted to first lieutenant and later captain.

Pierpan was deployed to Vietnam twice, in 1963 and again in 1968 when he was promoted to major and earned the distinguished Navy Cross for his service.

“We had made a helicopter assault on top of a hill and we met fierce resistance,” Pierpan said, recounting the battle at Fire Support Base Argonne, which lasted several days. “As a result of that, we had to fight our way onto the hill, we lost our battalion commander and I was severely wounded.

“It was a matter of going bunker to bunker and leading the Marines.”

Pierpan remembered the bravery of his fellow comrades, especially during the hardships they endured fighting in Vietnam.

“There was never a day to relax, you had to be on your toes. After a while, with the heat, the mosquitos, the jungle rot — it was quite taxing for everyone,” he said.

Pierpan, who was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1977, continued to serve even after the war. He assumed critical positions in national defense, including senior emergency action officer at the National Military Command Center J-3, joint chiefs of staff.

Following his role as special assistant and Marine Corps aide to the secretary of the Navy, the Honorable James H. Webb, Jr., Pierpan retired from a remarkable military career in 1988.

Pierpan now continues to help his community in other ways, including working with the Boy Scouts of America.

“I’ve been a cub scout pack leader, a troop leader, a district chairman and now a troop committeeman for two troops — a female troop and a male troop,” he said.

Pierpan said Veteran’s Day always brings back memories. He was “completely surprised” when he learned he was nominated to be one of seven grand marshals for this year’s Phoenix parade.

“I’m proud to represent all the Vietnam veterans,” He said, adding that “they were very good people, and they did their job.”

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Navy Cross recipient remembers bravery of comrades during Vietnam War