Born in San Diego, Henry Nicholas “Rick” Pilger came to Annapolis after an illustrious athletic and academic career in North Syracuse, NY and quickly established himself as one of the best-liked guys in the Company. Tough both physically and mentally, he was a standout in math and in all sports, especially soccer. He was a truly gifted leader and was Company Commander First Class Year, an honor he truly deserved. Rick was always upbeat, exuding “perpetual cheerfulness” in the words of one classmate, and had a great sense of humor with a distinctive laugh and voice that had a bit of a Great Lakes twang. One classmate remembers visiting Rick in the hospital after he’d broken his jaw playing soccer and seeing Rick with his jaw wired shut playing chess with another Mid who also had his jaw wired shut, the two of them arguing over something and waving scissors, each threatening to cut the other guy’s wires. Even the nurses laughed at the absurdity of it. Rick was the kind of guy everybody liked being around, with an easy going charisma that made you want to follow him. He had a beautiful powder blue TR-6 First Class Year and, inspired by Major Kostesky, went Marine Air, receiving his wings in April of 1972. He married Debbie Wadsworth in June 1970 and they had a daughter, Abigail.
1st Lieutenant Henry N. “Rick” Pilger tragically died in the service of his country of injuries from a helicopter crash during a NATO exercise on Grytoga Island, Troms County, Norway, on September 23, 1972, while attached to Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461, Det. “S.” He was the co-pilot.
Rick’s death was a shock to his classmates and a reminder of the high cost of freedom. While his star shone brightly for too short a time, all who knew him know that had he been granted a full life there was no upper limit to what his accomplishments might have been. He is greatly missed.
Updated: October 29, 2018
Curator: Ed Moore