ANNAPOLIS, Md. — September 4, 2015 – Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (ret.) was honored at a memorial service at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Sept. 3, 2015.
Lt. Gen. Petersen died at his home in Maryland Aug. 25, 2015, after succumbing to lung cancer. Petersen was the first African-American Marine Corps aviator and the first African-American Marine Corps general officer.
“We celebrate his decades of courageous service to our country,” said Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, Deputy Commandant, Plans, Policies and Operations. “Since his humble beginnings in Topeka, Kansas, he endured the humiliation of segregation. He gained strength and resolute character along the way, which led to him becoming the Marine Corps first African-American aviator in 1952, and ultimately the first African-American Marine Corps general in 1979.
“The country is forever indebted to [him] for his service and protection of our great nation,” said Bailey.
Among the audience stood the family of Lt. Gen. Petersen, service members and honored guests, including Charles F. Bolden, the administrator of NASA, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Green, the 18th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, and members of the Montford Point Marine Association, who came to pay respects to the late general.
“I think I speak for many of us here that [he] is a part of who we are,” said Bolden. “To have known him is to have known a legend, and we have been made a part of his legacy.”
In addition to his most notable accomplishments during his Marine Corps career, Petersen had flown more than 350 combat missions and more than 4,000 hours in various military aircraft. Petersen commanding officer for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212, deactivated March 11, 2008, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, and served as the commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
“He didn’t ask you to do anything he wouldn’t do. That was a leadership trait he had,” said Frank E. Petersen III, son of Lt. Gen. Petersen. “He taught us many things as a family. Key principles [such as] honor, dignity, family. That’s what [he] instilled in us and that’s what’s going to carry us through this tough time.”
Petersen’s accomplishments were documented in the Congressional Records as part of the archives of the House of Representatives on July 28, 2014.
“On behalf of the family, we appreciate what everyone is doing for his career and his distinguished honor,” said Frank E. Petersen III.