Bernard Rogers Card
West Point, 1958
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Palmer McGrew on April 23, 2002:
Bernie and I were companymates and handball team members. We spent many, many afternoons in the handball courts playing and laughing.
Bernie wasn't especially interested in academics, drill, shining shoes, most other cadet stuff like that. He was often overheard competing with some of his friends over the lowest grades in some favorite subject. Yet, to my recollection, he spent little time walking the area, was never turned out in any subject, and had little difficulty surviving the rigors of cadet life. He treated it all as a joke and succeeded admirably ... well, the admiration came not from the staff and faculty but from his many friends who marvelled at how easily he slid through the experience that was so difficult for most others.
Bernie had the whole thing figured out. Despite his interest in athletics he was much less interested in physical fitness and eventually grew to unusually (for a cadet) proportions. That led to his developing a kidding relationship with other slightly overweight classmates. One who probably prefers not to be identified, he called Officer Pottsy after a comic strip policeman of considerable girth. Again, Bernie got a little heavy but made it funny and never let it bother him. He passed the physical fitness tests and completed the obstacle course without undue difficulty. You've just got to love a guy who could master West Point so completely.
Unfortunately, this attitude didn't work in his first marriage. He and his first wife grew apart without Bernie ever realizing it. Upon his retirement from the Air Force she left him. He never knew what happened. She thought he was a lousy husband and father. I suspect he was neither, he just didn't pay enough attention to her, just as he paid minimal attention to academics. He later remarried. The second wife had no complaints about him as a husband.
Bernie's AF career didn't go exactly as planned either. He didn't pass flight training. He told of landing off the runway once too often and being washed out. He then became a navigator. Not being rated as a pilot during those days often meant not being promoted, but Bernie was a good navigator and he was a Lieutenant Colonel when he retired with 20 years. He was doing well again in a difficult situation.
Bernie was not just a talented, if easy-going, guy. He was a good friend with whom you were guaranteed to have a lot of fun. As an example, one summer he took some companymates on a tour of Europe, using his parents' quarters as his base of operations (in Belgium as I recall.) He had bought an Argus C-4 camera at the Cadet Store,as so many had and he had about 200 slides to show when he got back to the Academy. He held viewings in his room for all who would come and watch, regaling us with great stories from the trip.
We didn't learn of Bernie's death for two years. He had always sent me a Christmas card and I wondered what had happened when I didn't get one. Then another year passed. Finally the second wife wrote to me and told me that Bernie had died nearly two years before. She didn't seem to know anything about West Point and had no idea that we wanted to know about our friend.
We lost a wonderful friend when Bernie died. He wasn't perfect. He could have studied harder, shined a little more shoe leather, spent more time working out, eaten a little less, but that wouldn't have been Bernie. We loved him just the way he was.
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