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Howard J. Pierson

Howard J. Pierson August 27, 1927 - March 10, 2013 Howard Pierson died peacefully at his home in Novato on March l0, surrounded by family and friends, following a long illness. Services were held this past weekend, which included interment with full military honors at Valley Memorial Park and a Memorial Celebration at Keaton's Redwood Chapel of Marin last Friday. On Saturday a memorial Mass was held at Our Lady of Loretto Church, followed by a reception at the Pierson home. Howard Pierson was born in New Jersey in 1927. At age 17 he left high school to serve in the U. S. Navy during WWII. After serving on the Battleship USS Iowa till the war ended, he returned to complete high school, following honorable discharge. He attended the University of Alabama on a football scholarship, received an ROTC commission in 1951, and earned his U. S. Air Force pilot's wings in 1952 at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas, in the class of 52-Charlie. His first assignment was as Aircraft Commander on the B-29 bomber during the Korean "Police Action." When the Korean War ended, he served as aide de camp to the Commanding General of the Japan Air Defense Force in Nagoya, Japan. He then returned to the States for Bombardier-Navigator training to fly the Strategic Air Command's nuclear B-47 and B-52 bombers during the Cold War. In between three volunteer combat tours in Vietnam, Command Pilot Pierson instructed student pilots in T-38's at Craig Air Force Base, Alabama and Reese Air Force Base. In Vietnam, his assignments included flying with USAF units and acting as operations advisor to the Vietnamese Air Force and the Royal Air Force of Thailand. He served in operational units for almost four years in Southeast Asia, flying fighters, bombers, and trainers with one, two, four, six and eight engines, (and, as he would say, "sometimes no engines"), accumulating over 10,000 flying hours. As Commander of the "Nail" Forward Air Controllers, he was the last to fly out of Cambodia when U. S. support terminated on 15 August 1973. Howard Pierson held degrees from three institutions, and was an adjunct professor at four colleges and universities. He was the founder and president of Top Gun and Formation Leadership Seminars and a consultant to American Airlines for seven years. Memberships included numerous military orders, veterans associations and civic fraternities: He served as chaplain of the Marin County Military Officers Association of America, the Forward Air Controllers Association, the Air Commando Association, and he was a founding director and chaplain of the All Three Wars Association. Other memberships included the Order of Daedalians, Kappa Sigma Fraternity, the Arkansas Boys State Hall of Fame, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Crimson Tide "A" Club. He was very supportive of youth groups in Marin County such as the Junior AFROTC and the USMC pre-recruitment programs, as well as the Blue Star Moms of Marin. In 2000 Pierson was named to the Air Commando Hall of Fame. His combat decorations include the Airman Medal for Valor, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Bronze Stars, 39 Air Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross and many additional awards. He was presented with pilot wings from the South Vietnam, Cambodian and Royal Thai Air Forces. On September 3, 2011 Howard Pierson was named recipient of the Paul W. Bryant Alumni-Athlete Award at the University of Alabama. This award is granted annually, based on character and lifetime achievement in "contributions to society, professional achievement and service to fellowman." Additional services are to be held in Texas, where his family resides, at a later date. Lt. Colonel Pierson was married to Gilberta Guth Pierson. In their combined family they have eight children, twelve grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Published in Marin Independent Journal from Mar. 15 to Mar. 20, 2013
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