Bay Area Marine gets promotion, 60 years later

January 26, 2012 7:54:09 PM PST
A Bay Area man is receiving an honorary promotion 60 years after his medical retirement from the Marine Corps.

Denny Weisgerber knew at age five that he wanted to be a Marine. Today, at 81, he remembers that moment he saw the Marine Corps Color Guard marching in a parade. "It went by and I looked up at my mom and said, 'That's what I'm going to be.'"

At age 19, he put on the uniform and dreamed of a military career. His official service was cut short in 1953. He lost his leg in combat during the Korean War rescuing a wounded marine during a firefight. "So, I put him on my back in a fireman's carry and I started down the hill and a mortar shell hit between my feet, blew us up," he recalled. His actions earned him a Purple Heart and the coveted Navy Cross for valor.

"Denny Weisberger is a hero in so many ways it's impossible to describe them all," First Sgt. David Wilson said.

Had he not been injured, Staff Sgt. Weisgerber would have been promoted to Gunnery Sgt. and now, a rare honorary promotion will do just that. The ceremony is in part due to his extraordinary service in Korea and perhaps even more so to his legendary service since as a volunteer instructor. He taught "17 straight years, not getting paid? He's teaching tactics, patrolling, different combat techniques," as Wilson described it.

"It was my honor and privilege to do that and it took away from me, a lot of the stigma and hurt of having to be retired at the age of 23," he said.

This dedicated Marine also served three terms as mayor of Milpitas and has been married to the same woman for 63 years. She will be by his side when he accepts his honorary promotion Saturday.

"I am absolutely overwhelmed," Weisgerber said. "I know they are going to ask me to say a few words and I'm going to try to hold it together while I do it, but this is just exciting."

The rank of Gunnery Sgt...well earned and long overdue.