Peter Hilgartner enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1945. After boot camp in Parris Island, he worked his way into the Naval Academy Preparatory School. He passed all examinations and entered the Academy in 1947, graduated as a 2nd Lt. in 1951, and was sent on to the Marine Officer’s Candidate School. After graduation, and a short course in artillery, he was off to Korea as an artillery observer to direct fire against the enemy. He received the Bronze Star with Combat “V” for meritorious conduct.
He then qualified as an infantry troop commander, and as Captain, commanded an infantry company and concurrently served as a Camp Commander in Okinawa. He was then transferred to Beaumont TX as a Reserve Rifle Company Commander and Inspector-Instructor.
Promoted to Major, he was sent to Hawaii as the Ground Assault Forces and Unconventional Warfare Officer. He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal for services on the CICPACFLT (CINK PAC FLEET ) Staff . Then he was off to Vietnam where he became the Operations Officer of the 7th Marine Regiment. As a major, he was assigned as Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. While in the field, he was promoted to Lt. Colonel and commanded his Battalion longer than any Marine Battalion Commander during the war. During this time, he received the Silver Star, the Legion of Merritt, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm and Gold star (two awards).
He was promoted to Colonel, USMC while a Staff Officer, Headquarters’ Marine Corps where he received his 2nd Navy Commendation Medal. He was reassigned to Vietnam where he served as Operations Officer of COMUSMACV (COM U.S. MAC V) He retuned to the U.S. and graduated from the Navy Postgraduate School in Monterey California where he received a Masters Degree in Management. He than retuned to Headquarters USMC, where he served until he retired in 1972
Col. Hilgartner then launched his new career in the brokerage investment business where he rose to the position of Vice President –Investments with NYSE listed firm, Legg Mason Wood Walker, Inc. He excelled in his new career.
Throughout his life, Peter Hilgartner diligently supported his community, as a boy in Texas, as an outstanding Marine, as a successful businessman, and as a hard working retiree. Whenever possible, he and his family attended an extensive garden. He was past President of the McLean Rotary Club, founder and past President of the Northern Virginia Brittany Club. His Seven Oaks Brittany Spaniels won many AKA awards in dog shows and field trials.
Peter Hilgartner was instrumental in leading the Great Falls Memorial Committee after September 11, 2001, with his wife Sara and a dedicated committee. The Great Falls Memorial is a focal point for community patriotic activities and remembrance of those who have fallen in service of their country. He was honored on Memorial Day 2015 at the site, with the dedication of a white oak and plaque in his honor.
He loved animals and gardens. He was involved in most of the special events in his community, and Pete was most always available with a helping hand to support community events. Although a big hunter, he was an ardent protector of wildlife and their habitat.
Whether fighting for his country; providing for his family; sharing, and many times, leading in his commitment to his neighbors and his community; and creating new concepts to the betterment of all –-Colonel Peter Hilgartner was a great American and his services to our country live on.