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On Jan. 6, my 85-year-old maternal grandfather, Norm Qualtrough, passed away at his residence in Fairfax, Virginia. Some of you may have met him over the past 25 years. He and my uncle would visit Freedom at least once a year when I was growing up, and he invariably came up for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I learned of his passing while sitting in my office overlooking Belfast Bay, on which we spent many summers kayaking with my brother and uncle.

I do not have enough space here to write about him — suffice it to say I believe I will always consider him one of the most influential people in my adult life. Despite his living in Northern Virginia since before I was born, we had a strong, unique connection through visits and frequent, lengthy telephone conversations. If my grandmother (Sallyann) was a driving force of my childhood, I think it is fair to say that “Grandad” was an equally driving force in my adulthood. He was the primary inspiration in my starting my legal career in the veterans disability field; a dedicated, telephonic travel companion when I started that career traveling around the country; and the way he lived his life taught me a valuable lesson in the virtues — and pitfalls — of being fiercely independent.

He was a career Army officer and Vietnam veteran. By the end of his 30-year active duty service, his separation certificate was so full of special citations and commendations that there is literally not enough room on the document to add more. His 1965 Silver Star citation can speak about him far better than I can:

“The President of the United States of America . . ., takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Captain (Field Artillery) Norman E. Qualtrough, United States Army, for gallantry in action while engaged in military operations in Vietnam, on 1 and 2 July 1964. As an Advisor, Captain Qualtrough was accompanying a battalion of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam on a search and clear operation when the battalion encountered a strong hostile force approximately an hour before midnight. As the entire battalion, including a command group, came under an intense enemy barrage of small arms and mortar fire, and sustained heavy casualties, he called for a medical evacuation helicopter. As the helicopter approached the area and the enemy opened fire upon it from an undisclosed position, it was struck and then crashed from an altitude of approximately 20 feet. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Captain Qualtrough rushed to the downed aircraft, climbed up on the exposed side, broke a window to free the crew, and yelled to the co-pilot to shut off the engine to avert an explosion. Ignoring the gunfire and the probability of an explosion, he freed the co-pilot and two other crew members who then helped him to evacuate the unconscious pilot. His fortitude, determination, and courageous conduct while a target of hostile gunfire enabled the crew members to reach a place of safety behind a dike in a rice paddy. Captain Qualtrough’s conspicuous gallantry is in the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflects great credit upon himself and the military services.”

He will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery in the spring of 2023.