“I’ve Never Done Anything Else But the Army”: Fighting To Commission And Serve The Nation

George Kopcsak


Born in a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania, George Kopcsak (pronounced Cope-Sack) had two uncles who graduated from West Point in the ‘30s and served in WWII. The family later moved to Ravenswood, West Virginia, where he excelled in high school football. Recruited by an Army coach, he attended a small prep school in Cornwall, New York, rather than finishing high school at home. After a Plebe year knee injury in football, George battled to stay healthy for the rest of his time at the Academy. His knee got so bad the Army told him that he could not commission. With some help from the athletic office, he secured a job working for a steel company in California after graduation, but he did not find the job fulfilling. As his knee improved, he petitioned the Army to allow him to take a new physical exam and return to service, which he did in March of 1962 as an Artillery officer. He started as a junior officer in the brand-new Pershing Missile program and moved with one of the earliest operational Pershing units to Germany in 1964. He later served in multiple positions in Vietnam, including as the S-3 of a 155mm cannon battalion in the A Shau Valley. After graduate school at Georgia Tech, he continued with the Pershing Missile system on the research and development side. In 1979, he resigned his active-duty commission to accept a job as an SES, but continued as a reserve officer. He worked for the government until 1997, after which he continued his service to the nation as a consultant to various government agencies on weapons development. In this interview George talks about his experiences at West Point, including the difficult physical and health challenges he overcame. He talks about his various Army assignments, both in uniform and as a government civilian. He concludes with some thoughts about what West Point means to him.


name George Kopcsak
institution USMA
graduation year 1961
service Field Artillery
unit Pershing Missile Units; 2nd Battalion, 138th Artillery
specialty Pershing Missile System
service dates 1962 1993