The opening words of his obituary read, “old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” but George Albright’s memory lives on in the hearts of those who knew him. The decorated four-war veteran lived out his final years here in Pulaski, where he generously shared his life experiences and love for his country with others.
Albright was born Sept. 14, 1922 in Pennsylvania, and moved west early in life. His father worked for the railroad, which took the family to Oregon, and eventually Arizona. In October of 1939, at the age of 17, he joined the National Guard. Just shy of a year later, his division was sent to Fort Sill, Okla. for processing, and then to the jungles of Panama to train for combat in the South Pacific during WWII.
After being released from active duty in 1945 and rejoining his family in California, Albright once again joined the National Guard with California’s 40th Infantry Division. He was active in the National Guard the next four years, then was involved in the Korean War, serving three years while stationed in Japan and Korea.
His military career took him all over the world and helped Albright earn an education in foreign languages from the Defense Language Institute. He could communicate in several languages, including Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese, the latter of which he used interrogating Viet Cong captives during one of his three tours of duty in Vietnam, where he served at the same time as two of his sons. Although he didn’t have a chance to complete high school before going to war, he commented in a 1997 Roanoke Times story that he “didn’t do too bad for someone who didn’t have a high school education.”
Though he retired in 1972 from the rank of master sergeant, he previously held the top rank of first sergeant (E8). Even after all the time he spent in service, he wasn’t finished giving his time to our country. During Operation Desert Storm, the master sergeant was assigned to a group of officials who visited homes and informed soldiers’ families of casualties.
Speaking fondly of her husband, Barbara, Albright’s wife of 31 years, proudly showed off his medals and other memorabilia from his life in the military. She also showed photos of him with his cars and visiting the Three War Combat Veteran Hall of Fame in Fort Benning, Ga., where his name is listed among men who were awarded the Combat Infantryman badge three times.
For his military service, Albright earned a Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster, an Air Medal, an Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, an Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal with one silver knot (equaling seven awards), the American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with one arrowhead and three bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army WWII Occupation Medal (Japan), National Defense Service Medal with two bronze stars, Korean Service Medal with four bronze stars, Vietnam Service Medal with two silver stars and two bronze stars, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Presidential Unit Citation with one oak leaf cluster, Army Valorous Unit, Army Meritorious Unit with one oak leaf cluster, Army Philippine Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star, Army Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Army Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with palm, Army Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Unit, Philippine Liberation Medal with one bronze star, United. Nations Service Medal for Korea, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Republic of Korea War Service Medal, and a Combat Infantryman Badge with two stars.
Albright passed away May 24, 2013. Following his death, Barbara received a commendation of his service to the country, bearing the Army seal and the signature of President Barack Obama. She clings to mementos like these; proof of the kind of man George was.
Of his character, his wife said he was one of the kindest, most loving people she ever knew. She said he loved taking his slides and projector to New River Community College and sharing photos from his travels around the world in the Army with students there, which she said he did until he couldn’t carry them anymore. He also participated in flag ceremonies around the area on Veterans Day. He was honored more than once by UAW 2069 in Dublin as they made their annual Memorial Day “Run For the Wall” ride for freedom to Washington, D.C.
“He was more of a man than any I’ve ever met,” said Barbara. “And I’ve been from Maine to California, and lived in just about every state. He was very loving, well educated, and the most honest person I’ve ever met.”
Were he alive today, George Alexander Albright would have celebrated his 91st birthday on Sept. 14. Though he has passed on, he remains highly thought of and very fondly remembered by his community.