When J. Richard “Dick” Swisher entered the military in the 1950s, he had no idea the chain of events that his act of service would set into motion.
Six decades later, as Swisher’s loved ones gathered to honor the family patriarch following his passing last week, the story of the impact his decision had on his family is truly incredible. Swisher, 84, died June 27 at The Ohio State University Medical Center.
Swisher went on to serve 32 years in the military, retiring as a first sergeant from the 175th Quartermaster Company in Delaware. But that wasn’t the end of his family’s service to the United States.
All told, according to his son and daughter-in-law, Roger and Victoria Swisher, family members have tallied a total of 160 years — and counting — of service in the United States military.
“My dad was drafted for the Korean War,” Roger said. “He never got to go over there. The war ended before he finished his training.”
Roger, the eldest of the three Swisher sons, entered the military in 1976 and served four years with the United States Army’s 101st Airborne in Kentucky and two years with the 25th Infantry in Hawaii. He later went on to serve in the United States Army Reserves and retired as a master sergeant from the 175th Quartermaster Company in Delaware. He served for 33 years total.
“(At the 175th), my first sergeant was my dad,” Roger said. “He wasn’t easy on me.”
Daughter-in-law Victoria stunned her father-in-law when she signed up for the United States Army Reserves in 1981. She ended up serving for 20 years, retiring as a staff sergeant from the 175th Quartermaster Company.
“That didn’t go over well for a while,” Victoria said, laughing. “My father-in-law was an old-fashioned guy. He was a Christian man and he had definite ideas about what women should do and what they shouldn’t do. It wasn’t that women were less important, they were just different. He told me that he did not believe in women in the military. I just looked at him and said, ‘Dad, I’m going to be a cook. Is that close enough?’
“He accepted me as a daughter-in-law and as a soldier,” she added. “He never expected anything less from me.”
Ronald, the middle Swisher brother, entered the Army in 1979. After 38 years, he’s still going strong, currently a master sergeant with the 654th Quartermaster Detachment and deployed in Kuwait.
In fact, Roger, Victoria, and Ronald all served at the 175th Quartermaster Company at the same time while Dick Swisher was the first sergeant there.
“At roll call, it would be ‘Swisher, Roger,’ then ‘Swisher, Ronald,’ and then it would be ‘Swisher, Victoria.’” Roger said. “We had to meet the standards. In fact, we had to be a little bit better than the next ones.”
Youngest son Rick began his military career 30 years ago in the United States Navy and has now risen to the rank of major in the United States Army’s 654th Quartermaster Detachment. He is currently deployed in the Middle East.
Rick said his father modeled all of the traits so valued by the military.
“The Army values — that’s loyalty, duty, respect, self service, honor, integrity, and personal courage,” Rick said. “He lived out all of those.”
A new generation of Swishers has joined the legacy. Ronald’s son Mark is a captain with the U.S. Army’s Military Police at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He’s been in the military for five years.
Rick’s son Steven is a first lieutenant with the U.S. Army Reserve’s 1001st Quartermaster Company in Chillicothe. He has served for two years so far.
Dick Swisher’s family said his service to the Delaware community also served as a positive example for them and all who knew him. He volunteered at Turning Point domestic violence shelter, was a Cub Master with the Cub Scouts, worked as a church youth counselor, and embarked on many missions trips.
“He was a great father,” Ronald said. “He touched a lot of lives. He was always volunteering. I couldn’t tell you how many missions trips he’s been on. He was a Sunday school teacher for quite a few years. He just cared about people.”
Dick Swisher’s funeral was held Saturday. Military honors were presented by the Delaware County Veterans Association.
In a fitting send-off, Swisher’s three sons, daughter-in-law Victoria, and grandsons Mark and Steven served as his pallbearers.
In addition to the members of his family who have served in the military, Dick Swisher is survived by his wife of 62 years, Marlene Swisher; daughters-in-law, Donna (Ronald’s wife) and Jennifer (Rick’s wife); grandchildren, Casey, Heather, and Megan; great grandchildren, Lucy and Rey; sister, Barbara LaWarre; and brother, Robert Swisher.
Reach Carter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @DelOhioEditor.