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News & Press: PNGAS News

PNG Mourns Loss of Major General Gerald Sajer

Sunday, May 15, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Dennis Guise
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Major General Gerald T. Sajer

The Pennsylvania National Guard Associations join in mourning Major General Gerald T. Sajer. General Sajer, who served as Pennsylvania's 47th Adjutant General,  died peacefully at his home surrounded by his family on May 14, 2011. He was 83 years old.

General Sajer was born in Milton, Pennsylvania on April 12, 1928.  He received his secondary education and graduated from Girard College, a school for orphan boys, in Philadelphia in 1946.  He received his Bachelor’s degree, summa sum laude, from Tufts University in 1956 where he was selected for membership in Phi Beta Kappa based on high academic standing.  General Sajer received his law degree from Harvard University in 1959 and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Shippensburg University in 1984.

General Sajer began his military career when he enlisted in the Army as a rifleman on September 16, 1946.  After basic training, he was selected for the Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and received his commission as a second lieutenant on June 26, 1947.  He attended the Engineer School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where he completed the Engineer Associate Officer Course in 1947. 

General Sajer was assigned as a company officer in engineer units in Korea and Japan from 1947 to 1950.  Following the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, General Sajer attended Airborne School and Ranger Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1951.  He then served in Korea in 1952-53 as a Ranger Captain in intelligence collection activities in support of the Eighth United States Army.   

General Sajer left active duty to attend college and law school and transitioned into the United States Army Reserve.  He subsequently joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 1959 as a captain in the 28th Infantry Division.  He served as the Assistant G3 Plans and Operations, division G3 responsible for operational planning and execution, and as Chief of Staff of the 28th Infantry Division.  In 1976, he was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed as Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver) for the 28th Infantry Division.  He was appointed as the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania on January 20, 1987 and promoted to Major General.   He served as the Adjutant General until April 1995.

After the first Persian Gulf War (Aug 1990 - Aug 1991), when active, Guard and Reserve units were being downsized, the Army proposed to cut the 15,000-man 28th Infantry Division to a 3,500-man cadre.  General Sajer’s vigorous opposition over three years saved the entire division.  He then converted the 28th Infantry Division from a light infantry to a modern heavy mechanized division, accomplishing that transition within three years. Under General Sajer’s leadership, the Pennsylvania National Guard grew to the greatest strength ever – 24,000 – and was widely regarded as the best Guard in the country.

While Adjutant General, General Sajer conceived and constructed the first modern training buildings for the training of officers and noncommissioned officers at Fort Indiantown Gap, a $30 million project.  During his tenure, the Pennsylvania National Guard was allotted three-quarters of all of the National Guard’s construction money and actively constructed armories, veterans’ homes and other facilities throughout the Commonwealth.

General Sajer was responsible for conceiving of and promoting legislation of importance to the Guard. His vision led to enactment of the Educational Assistance Program, which provided public service educational grants to Guard Soldiers and Airmen, in return for a six-year service commitment.  With the outbreak of the first Persian Gulf War, General Sajer led efforts to modernize Pennsylvania laws providing protections and benefits to Soldiers, Airmen and Families of Reserve Component members. Among the innovations enacted under his leadership was legislation authorizing Association Group Life Insurance for National Guard members.  This state-sponsored life insurance program, managed by PNGAS. provided great benefits for our personnel and provided support for PNGAS.

General Sajer led the Guard when PNGAS was established as the umbrella organization for the National Guard Association of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania National Guard Enlisted Association.  His vision led to the establishment of the Pennsylvania National Guard Foundation, which began the Keystone Conference Center project at Fort Indiantown Gap.  

General Sajer spearheaded a major environmental cleanup initiative at Cressona, Schuylkill County to eliminate the issues caused by tens of thousands of burning tires for which he was honored at the White House by President George H. W. Bush for community excellence service.  He created the legislation to construct the memorial and amphitheater at the National Veterans Cemetery at a Fort Indiantown Gap and served as the Chairman of the Commissioning Committee for the U.S.S. Pennsylvania, a Trident submarine. General Sajer was active with the military abroad, forming a training partnership with the First Panzer Division of the German Army and assisting in the development of the Lithuanian military forces.

General Sajer initiated a modern family support program for the Pennsylvania National Guard solders and their families, including a day care center, a summer camp, a day camp, and an emergency relief program. 

General Sajer’s awards and decoration include the Distinguished Service Medal, Soldier’s Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, Army Forces Reserve Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Pennsylvania Distinguished Service Medal – Second Award, General Thomas J. Stewart Medal, Pennsylvania Service Ribbon, and Parachute and Ranger Tabs.

General Sajer has held civic and military affiliations with the following:  Pennsylvania Bar Association, Cumberland County Bar (Pennsylvania), Phi Beta Kappa (Tufts Chapter), National Guard Associations of the United States and Pennsylvania, Association of the United States Army, 28th Infantry Division Heritage Association, and was a Life Member of Veterans of Foreign Wars.  General Sajer was a trustee of the Army War College Foundation, a member of the Board of the First Regiment of Infantry Association, and a member of the Board of the Minuteman Institute of National Defense Studies. 

Prior to assuming his position as Adjutant General, General Sajer was an attorney in private practice with Stone & Sajer in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, focusing on civil litigation.

.After his retirement as the Adjutant General, General Sajer resumed the practice of law and remained active in military affairs.  He wrote several award-winning articles on the National Guard of the United States and was regarded as an expert in the planning and response to catastrophic events and homeland security.  He had a life-long love of history and military history, and was frequently invited to speak at military and civic ceremonies.  A student of the Battle of Gettysburg, he conducted tours of the battlefield for business and military groups. 

After his retirement from military service, General and Mrs. Sajer moved to Hidden Horse Farm, one of the oldest farmsteads in Adams County, first settled in 1745.  General Sajer regularly traveled to Europe to visit friends and tour battlefields and historic sites.  General Sajer remained until the end a creative thinker and prolific writer, drafting articles, position papers and legislative proposals, and researching and drafting two screenplays.  General Sajer was a member of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Camp Hill and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Abbottstown.            

General Sajer is survived by his wife, the former Helen Leskanich, to whom he was married for 54 years.  He took enormous pride in his six children, all of whom have graduate degrees and three of whom served as Army officers:  Marsha, an attorney and retired Army lieutenant colonel; Mark, a business executive and energy developer; Susan, a medical doctor specializing in oncology and hematology; Scott, business executive, former Army artillery officer and graduate of the United States Military Academy; Frank, a banker and retired lieutenant colonel who served in Fallujah, Iraq; and Peter, a professional engineer.  General and Mrs. Sajer have 14 grandchildren.  General Sajer’s love of country and family and sense of honor and decency are among his many legacies to his family.

 

Funeral Service for Major General Gerald T. Sajer

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Services:  Church: The Cathedral Parish of Saint Patrick - 10:30 AM
212 State Street Harrisburg, PA 17101 (717-232-2169)

Internment: Indiantown Gap National Cemetery - Pennsylvania Veterans Memorial - 1:30 PM
Route 934 / Fisher Avenue Annville, PA 17003 (717-865-5254)

Reception (following internment): Keystone Conference Center, Fort Indiantown Gap