By Cpl. Jose D. Lujano, Defense Media Activity
STEVENSVILLE, Maryland --
United States Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. presented Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (ret.) with a Congressional Record statement at his home in Stevensville, Maryland July 28.
The presentation honored Petersen’s significant accomplishments throughout his military career.
“Not only has Petersen’s legacy contributed to the betterment of the Marine Corps but to this country,” said Bishop, the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 2nd congressional district. “By having his actions recorded in the congressional records as a part of the archives of the House of Representatives, they will be preserved forever. He deserves that, but most importantly history deserves that as his contributions should never be forgotten.”
Petersen served more than 38 years in the Marine Corps and was a pioneer in many significant respects.
During his years of service, spanning from 1950 to 1988 he encountered many hardships from racial tension.
Despite the circumstances, he became the first African-American aviator, the first African-American to reach a general grade rank in the Corps and the first African-American to command a Marine Corps fighter squadron, air group, aircraft wing and major Marine base.
“Lt. Gen. Petersen has set the bar very high for all service members,” Bishop said. “His legacy is not just inspirational and motivational, but it is instructional for all who are faced with challenges head-on to not be deterred by obstacle or inconveniences but to strive to be the greatest so they could make the most constructive contributions that one can make.”
As Petersen climbed through the ranks, he finally earned the rank of lieutenant general, becoming the first African-American Marine to attain such a title.
“This leader exemplifies the finest quality of honor, courage and commitment, especially during the era he entered,” said Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey, the deputy commandant for plans, policies, and operations with Headquarters Marine Corps. “He was not readily accepted in any corner of this country, yet it did not prevent him from making a difference.”
Petersen’s perseverance and adaptability have influenced and inspired many in the Marine Corps, including Bailey.
“His ability of endless growth is what got me more than anything as he started his career off in corsairs and transitioned to jets and from the jets to the harrier,” Bailey said. “He spanned through technology and that was absolutely unbelievable.”
Not only did Petersen’s career demonstrate greatness, his devotion to his Marines has been demonstrated on numerous occasions. When Petersen’s aircraft was shot down in the Korean Demilitarized Zone during the Korean War, he got back in a plane to continue to fight just days later. His actions set the example and standards for Marines under his charge, according to Bailey.
“So when we start talking about a legend in our Corps, he is, and if we were to start talking about leadership traits and principles underneath those, his name would appear,” Bailey said.
Upon his retirement, Petersen had earned a myriad of illustrious awards and accolades. He commanded every Marine Corps aviation level of command and stood as a trailblazer for all Marines.
To this day, Petersen’s example serves as an inspiration to all Marines to triumph over any challenge they face and challenges they may encounter in the future.