Military ties run deep in one Whitewater native’s family.
Out of 10 generations of his family, Greg Zuercher is one of seven who have served.
After nearly a decade of working on F-16s and beyond in the Air Force, Zuercher retired as an Officer in the Army.
He said there is a goodness to most Americans that comes out, especially when we are under trial.
Zuercher said he saw that countless times, in not one deployment, but two.
“It was such a big goal of mine, I had to get it done,” Air Force and Army veteran Greg Zuercher said.
That’s why at the age of 33, Zuercher signed up for the Air Force, then it was off to the Army.
“I just showed up and did my best and I came out on top, out of 76 graduates at the academy,” Zuercher said.
Years later he was the officer in charge of 30 infantry soldiers in Iraq.
“I’ll never have anything quite to match that, in this life, and it was a wonderful experience. It taught me a lot about myself and about human nature, that I didn’t even know at that time,” Zuerhcer said.
He said at the time Iraq was a very dangerous place, where explosions, casualties, and devastation were common.
“Serving in the military is not something you do lightly, there is a cost involved and I’ve seen what it does,” Zuercher said.
He says the older soldiers made it their mission to get the young guys home safely and that’s exactly what they did.
“It was just thank God I am back in America, back in my home country, it still gives me goose bumps,” Zuercher said.
He said that for the Iraqis who worked with his infantry battalion, the dangerous times didn’t end.
“His next-door neighbor was shot dead, laying in the front of his house, with an Arabic sign saying, ‘Death to all betrayers’ on his house,” Zuerhcer said.
He said he’ll always cherish a letter from an Iraqi interpreter. Page after page he thanks those like Zuercher, who helped him and his family find a new lease on life.
“He broke down and cried on my shoulder and hugged me very tightly and all I could say was, ‘That’s okay. That’s what we do,'” Zuercher said.
He said he saw more of what the military does best, when serving in Afghanistan.
The assignment was to teach Afghan farmers how to produce.
He says he captured 10,000 photos while there, as somewhat of a military historian.
“This is Erwin Bleckley, his actual medal of honor, from 1922, 23,” Zuercher said.
His service continues today, through VFW Post 112.
“We try to highlight history that has been forgotten, under served or just off the radar,” Zuercher said.
That’s exactly what the post did, when they staged Bleckley day, one century after who they call Wichita’s greatest aviation hero died in France.
“It was just unfinished business that we took care of,” Zuercher said.
A fitting honor for a hero, thanks to someone who knows what it is like to put service before self.
Zuercher’s assignment in Afghanistan didn’t take him too far from his roots.
He was raised on a farm outside of Whitewater.