Retired Col. Steve dePyssler reflects on service ahead of 100th birthday

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Retired USAF Col. Steve dePyssler, Barksdale Air Force Base Retiree Affairs Office director, will celebrate his 100th birthday on July 19. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

A Bossier icon and giant in the local military community will celebrate a milestone next month.

Retired USAF Col. Steve dePyssler, Barksdale Air Force Base Retiree Affairs Office director, will celebrate his 100th birthday with distinguished guests, family and friends at the Bossier Civic Center on July 19. 

Col. dePyssler was born in Chicago, Ill. on July 21, 1919. He served 38 years of active-duty service, and is the only known American to have served in four wars, including World War II, Korea, French IndoChina and Vietnam.

As a young adult, Col. dePyssler was involved in athletics and was recognized as the Illinois state boxing and basketball champion. 

“I was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Chicago, but the draft came along,” Col. dePyssler said. “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, 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, he was offered to attend officer school in Britain and upon graduation, received his commission.

After leaving Europe, 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 Korean 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, he received his commission again and made it through the ranks as the chief of supply, working 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.”

Col. dePyssler came to Bossier in 1974 and retired from the military in 1978, at the age of 60. 

“I stayed in Bossier because the housing was very reasonable, the weather was great, golf course was great — everything I wanted was here,” he said.   

However, Col. dePyssler did not immerse himself into a life of leisure after retirement. He went back to work, ultimately becoming Barksdale Air Force Base Retiree Affairs Office director. 

“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’d had enough.”

What led him to volunteer was his experience in casualty affairs.

“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, Col. dePyssler found his calling in volunteering, helping countless veterans, family members, and widows with a myriad of issues.

“It was a perfect fit for me to be a volunteer,” he said. “I can’t imagine the number of lives I’ve helped and there’s no way you can put a dollar amount to it. 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.”

Col. dePyssler has worked with the state legislatures to develop the Louisiana Veterans Honor Medal and other legislation. He has also played a vital part in the development of the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home, the War Memorial at the Bossier City Civic Center, and the Purple Heart Stamp. He is devoted to the Ark-La-Tex Military Officers Association of American Chapter Scholarship Fund and editor of two military and retiree newspapers.