MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A retired Marine who spent 28 years serving his country also helped change the way all soldiers get paid.
"I have a box like that for my father and my brother. I have two flags like that and they present those to you at the funeral," said retired Lt. Col. Roger Pilcher, referring to the boxed flag at the Veteran's Cafe in Myrtle Beach.
Vietnam was Pilcher's second conflict. Inspired by the Korean War, he enlisted with his father's signature at the age of 17.
"I wanted to serve my country. I realize that was a little early in life, but you know, I fit in OK and had a great career," Pilcher said.
It’s a career that would span 28 years of active duty. Too young for combat in the Korean War, he offered support there, as well as Japan and Okinawa. In Vietnam, he was responsible for delivering paychecks to other Marines, but it was hardly an easy mission.
"When you went into Khe Sanh, you only had about 18 seconds to clear the aircraft and get into a bunker before the first round hit because they had it zeroed in," Pilcher said.
Among the near-death experiences was the time the enemy blew up an ammunition storage facility. Pilcher says he found a shipping container and held on for his life.
"It took all the shingles right off the top of the building and anything that was more than one story high, it just cut if off,” he said. “Everything was one story after that."
He lost friends, but says he'll also never forget those who survived. Pilcher held back tears while describing the moment he helped on a chopper evacuation.
"I held my jacket between the burn victim and the sun because the sun really hurt them. They never complained. That was pretty touching, pretty touching time, and when we landed and everything and I put my jacket back on they said, 'Thank you sir,'" he said.
Some other proud moments were captured with a plaque to celebrate his role with the Marine Corps Finance Center. Pilcher visited every Marine installation in the world in 12 months to initiate the first computerized online pay system for all the Armed Forces. It is still used today.
“That was a huge accomplishment and a big relief for all the people that worked in my field," Pilcher said.
This lieutenant colonel also served alongside Lt. Col. Oliver North.
"If he saw my name, he wouldn't know who I was but I mean, you know that was a long time ago but he was just a natural leader and when he joined a community group they'd work to get things done just like he did later on in life," Pilcher said.
Now, Pilcher's mission is for those who have served.
"We got about the ninth greatest number of veterans in the country and they have a lot of needs and so I'm on the Military Appreciation Committee, which is really busy this month,” he said. “We bring wounded warriors from the hospitals down here for a week, all expenses paid."
Meanwhile, like so many veterans, this Marine finds comfort in the reminders of those who gave everything.
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