ROGER G. LERSETH, USN (Ret.)
CDR Roger Gene Lerseth, USN (Ret.), age 57, twenty-four year Oak Harbor resident and former Vietnam POW, died at his home on Saturday, March 27, 2004, following a brief illness.
CDR Lerseth was born on October 24, 1946, in Belle Fourche, S.D., to Orville and Lillian (Heggem) Lerseth. He was raised in Belle Fourche, SD and Spokane, where he graduated from West Valley HS. He earned a BA in Economics from the University of Washington in June 1969 and was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy through the NROTC program.
Designated a Naval Flight Officer in 1970, he qualified in the A-6 Intruder at NAS Oceana, joining VA-75 aboard the USS Saratoga (CV-60) for a 1971 Mediterranean deployment followed by a 1972 combat deployment to Southeast Asia. On September 6, 1972, then LT Lerseth was shot down over North Vietnam. Seriously injured from his ejection, he was captured and held by the North Vietnamese in the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prison.
Upon release in February 1973, he was hospitalized at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, Oakland, CA, to recover from his injuries. After obtaining his MBA from Old Dominion University, he returned to flight duty in 1976 in VA-35, participating in the first deployment of the nuclear carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68). In January 1979, he was assigned to the U.S. Naval Academy as an instructor and academic advisor. In 1981, following transition training at NAS Whidbey Island in the new A-6 TRAM aircraft, he served as VA-95 Operations Officer aboard the USS America (CVA-66) and the USS Enterprise (CVN-65).
In 1982, following recurring medical problems from his combat injuries, he was reassigned as A-6 Plans and Program Manager at COMMATVAQWINGPAC. He then served as Officer in Charge, Naval Support Activity, Gaeta, Italy, followed by assignment as a financial manager and operations analyst at the Naval Center for Cost Analysis. His last active naval assignment was as a faculty member of the Strategy and Policy Department, Naval War College, Newport, R.I., from which he retired in August, 1994. He received Ph.D. in Political Science from Boston University in 2001.
His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross (five awards), the Bronze Star with Combat V, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), five individual and seven Strike/Flight Air Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V (two awards), and the Naval Achievement Medal, among other personal and unit citations.
A patron of naval aviation, he was Vice-President of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association; Commanding Officer, Whidbey Island Squadron, Association of Naval Aviation; and a member of the NAMPOWs, 4th Allied POW Wing.
Roger is survived by his wife of twenty-three years, Christine Picchi, CAPT, NC, USN(Ret) of Oak Harbor; his mother, Lillian Lerseth of Spokane; and two sisters, JoAnn Lerseth of Spokane and Lauretta Rozell and husband Eric and their children Cameron and Kelsey, all of Kalispell, MT. He was preceded in death by his father in 1972.
A Memorial Service will be held Friday, April 2, 2004, at 2:00 p.m. at the NAS Whidbey Island Base Chapel. Full Military Honors and Inurnment will take place at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association Air Warrior Courage Foundation, PO Box 882, Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538. Arrangements and cremation under direction of Burley Funeral Chapel.
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