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Why I Serve: Pentagon Employee Retires After 64 Years

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2005 – Eric Orsini joined the Army for a one-year stint in 1941, then kept finding reasons to stay with the government. Later this month, he'll retire with 64 years of service under his belt: 30 years of it in uniform, and 34 as an Army civilian.

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Eric Orsini will retire Jan. 28 with 64 years of service to the Army -- 30 in uniform and 34 as a civilian Department of Army employee. Photo by Donna Miles

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Orsini, who turns 87 on Jan. 7, can tell more "war stories" than most modern- day Army platoons. He earned a Silver Star, then a Purple Heart, during the 1944 Battle of the Bulge and helped liberate American prisoners of war from German prison camps.

His military service then took him to the Pacific, where he served during the Korean Conflict, then the Vietnam War, before retiring as a colonel in 1971.

But Orsini's Army service was not yet over. He reported to the Pentagon almost immediately as a civilian logistician. There, he served as chief of maintenance and deputy assistant to the assistant secretary of the Army for logistics during the Cold War, then the Persian Gulf War, and most recently, during the global war on terror.

Orsini said he never imagined he'd remain with the Army for so many years and through so many conflicts. "But the country was in trouble each time," he said. "I was just doing what I could to help the country."

What's kept him serving all these years, he said, is the gratification of knowing that in some way, he's helped keep America free. "I am grateful for the small part I may have played in allowing my children to be born free and will continue to serve the cause of freedom so that my grandchildren and those that follow can continue the blessings of liberty and justice," he wrote in an autobiography for his grandchildren.

Looking back over his 64-year Army career, Orsini said he's witnessed many changes. Women have joined the ranks. Technology has improved. Troops are better equipped. Warfare has become more complicated, without clear-cut lines between friends and foes. And soldiers are smarter and better educated than ever before.

But despite the changes, Orsini said, much has stayed the same. "The Army is still the Army, fit to fight and ready whenever it is called upon," he said.

Just three weeks before leaving the Pentagon, where he's worked for 45 years, Orsini said he's hard-pressed to identify specific highlights of his career. And given the opportunity to do it all again, he said he'd jump at the chance.

"It's all been exciting and challenging," he said. "I wouldn't change anything. It was an interesting life."

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