Salute to a family that steps up when service calls

Port Washington native Brian Pierringer stood next to his daughters Leah (left) and Hannah at his retirement ceremony from the Air Force National Guard this month. Leah and Hannah also serve in the Air Force. (Lower photo) BRIAN PIERRINGER (center) is proud that many of his children have also chosen to serve in the military. They included (from left) daughter Rachel and her husband Jay, who were in ROTC, Brian and his wife Kim, Josiah wanted to join but couldn’t due to health, Leah is in the Air Force Active Guard Reserve and Aaron was in the Air Force. Missing from photo were Hannah, who serves in the Air Force, and Caleb, who wanted to join but couldn’t due to health. Brian and Kim’s grandchildren include (front row, from left) McKenna, Kylee, Nevaeh, (back row) Natalie and Ethan. Photo by Sam Arendt


Ozaukee Press staff

Brian Pierringer’s journey through the Air Force was not a direct flight, but his service has inspired decades of commitment to the country.

All six of the Port Washington native’s children are either serving in the military, have served or wanted to but weren’t allowed.

At Brian’s retirement party from the Air National Guard this month, plenty of relatives attended in uniform, and their families occupied a good portion of the seating at the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee.

Pierringer retired from the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 128th Air Refueling Wing as a Senior Master Sergeant, a rank less than 3% of current Air Force members have attained. He served two tours separated by a 19-year layover in the private sector.

Pierringer originally joined on a bit of a whim after graduating from Port High in 1981. He established a strong work ethic through paper routes and jobs at Harry’s Restaurant and Anchor Men’s Wear, but his post high school plan was blank.

“I had nothing better to do,” he said. “The only thing I planned since fourth grade was getting out of high school early.” 

After nine years of Air Force active duty, six years up at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Michgan and three years with the Air Force Chief of Staff at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Pierringer left in 1990. He continued to serve the country one more year with the Wisconsin Air National Guard and had an adventure filled civilian career over the next 19 years. In that time he worked as an electrician, outside sales in electrical, owned George Webb and Dairy Queen in Port Washington and concluded that career with an 11-year stay at Cook Composites and Polymers in Saukville. After suffering a layoff due to downsizing Pierringer picked his military career back up.

“I didn’t have any great plans at that time,” he said.

Pierringer’s wife Kim had been urging him to learn computers and get a “smart guy job,” he said.

He attended PC Pro School, along with his sons Aaron and Josiah, while juggling four part-time jobs before turning his part time job at Quad Graphics into a full time job.

The real idea of rekindling his military career came from his youngest daughter Hannah when she had stated that she wanted to join the Wisconsin Air National Guard when she graduated. At that point Pierringer wondered if they would take old people back. He was 47 at the time and due to his Pierringer genetics was confident that he could pass the required physical. He was within three years of being too old, but made it under the wire.

“That actually changed our entire lives,” Pierringer’s wife Kim said.

On the same day Pierringer enlisted in the Guard, his oldest daughter Leah joined him to restart her military career that began back in 2004 with the Active Duty Air Force. Later in 2010, the youngest daughter Hannah joined United States Air Force.  Both women still serve today. Hannah is a medical technician in Colorado and Leah has a bachelor’s degree in business management and works in finance in the Minnesota Air National Guard in Minneapolis, Minn.

Pierringer was blessed. He needed the right kind of job in the Air National Guard, and the stars aligned.

“They happened to have a position in computers. Every piece of it was a miracle,’” he said.

Two of Pierringer’s other four children were in the military for a short time. Rachel joined ROTC in college with her future husband Jay. Jay completed ROTC and went on to serve seven years as a commissioned officer and attained the rank of Captain.

Aaron joined to become a pilot but ended up working on the avionics of the F22 Fighter.

He served one year in Iraq and assured his mother he was in a safe zone, holding off on tales of nearby bombings until he got home so she wouldn’t worry. He has since joined civilian life and does technical support on water pump stations.

Two other sons wanted to join, but Josiah has cerebral palsy and Caleb had hearing limitations. The military would not be in their future.

If they did sign up, it would have been with the family’s preferred branch —the Air Force.

Pierringer said the Air Force provides an awesome quality of life.

An outlier is one of the children’s uncles, who was in the Army. Steve Seifert was an Army Ranger with the Wisconsin National Guard. Friendly bantering occurs at many family gatherings.

Regardless of the branch, serving isn’t easy. Pierringer, who began dating Kim in high school, was supposed to be sent to California after technical training.  He traded with someone to serve in the Upper Peninsula at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Michigan. This was a four-hour drive from the love of his life,  instead of a long flight.

While on active duty away from his family, Pierringer said, he loved the close relationships he developed with his colleagues.

“When I’m gone there’s still that sense of community there,” he said.

The family lived in a few different spots during Pierringer’s first tenure. After working at Andrews Air Force Base for a few years, he joined the Air National Guard and came back to Port so his family could help care for Kim’s aging father, who had stage four cancer.

“It was important to me for them to know their grandpa,” Kim said of their children.

Allan “Butch” Klopp ended up being a medical miracle, living for three decades with two types of cancer.

While Pierringer left the military, he continues to be a federal technician.

Pierringer wasn’t aware he followed in the footsteps of his father, Loschel, who founded and ran Pierringer Electric in Port for years before his son David took over. Loschel rarely talked about being an ensign radioman second class.

“I didn’t realize he was in the Navy until I was 40,” Pierringer said.

He said he thought a photo in their grandparent’s house was of his older brother dressing up in a uniform.

Now, Pierringer has plenty of photos of his family in and out of uniform, and stories of service to last a lifetime.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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