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Dan Pender

December 22, 1945 ~ December 23, 2020 (age 75)



Dan Pender, age 75, passed away on December 23 2020 from COVID.  He is survived by his bride of 35 years, Sherry, his sisters Janice Pender, Peggy Babcock, Diane Guetschow, his brothers Earl MacMillan, Doug Macmillan, and many nieces and nephews.

Dan was born in Tacoma WA where he studied at Wilson High School.  He earned a B.A. degree in Business Administration at the University of Puget Sound in 1968.  He was an All American swimmer and laughed about competing against, and losing to, the Olympian Mark Spitz.

In 1968, Dan was commissioned an officer in the U.S Marine Corps and designated a Naval Aviator in 1969.  In 1970, he joined HML-367 and flew the AH-1G gunship while serving in Vietnam.  There he flew over 850 combat missions and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.  He was a “plank holder” member of HMA-169 when it activated in 1971.  In 1975, he served with HMM-165.  In 1977, he was selected to join HMX-1, the Presidential Helicopter Squadron.  He was one of a select few pilots designated as a Presidential Command Pilot and flew the Marine One White Top helicopter all around the world.  He served Presidents Carter and Reagan and many world leaders, including Maggie Thatcher and Anwar Sadat.  His stories about this time were legendary and retold often, but only at Sherry’s urging.

Dan and Sherry were married on Okinawa in 1985, then moved to Kaneohe, Hawaii.  There Dan assumed command of HMH-463, a composite squadron.  He held that command for an unprecedented 26 months and loved every single minute of it.  From Hawaii, they moved to the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.  There he served as the Chief, Middle East and Africa Plans Division.  He made many trips to Israel and made lifelong friends there.  In the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, Dan was ordered to Incirlik, Turkey to establish and direct the Combined/Joint Task Force Provide Comfort Plans and Policy Directorate under General Shalikashvili, U.S. Army.  This complex multi-national task force provided unprecedented humanitarian relief to the Kurdish people in the Turkish-Iraqi region.

In 1991, Dan reported to the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing at El Toro CA where he established and commanded the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).  He completed his distinguished 30-year career in 1998, serving as the Marine Corps Air Bases Community Plans and Liaison Officer.  In that position, he worked tirelessly with community leaders in San Diego to prepare for the move of helicopters from El Toro to Miramar.  Dan was a true patriot and loved his Marine Corps.  His decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Single Mission Air Medal; the Air Medal with numeral 50; Navy Commendation Medal and the Joint Service Achievement Medal.  He was authorized to wear the Presidential Service Badge.

After he retired, Dan and Tom Porter established a successful dog food distribution company in San Diego.  He also worked for Flyer Defense, a defense contractor that sells military vehicles around the world.  After Dan retired for the last time, he and Sherry traveled the world, to places such as Australia and New Zealand, Russia, Spain and Portugal, Hungary, Turkey, France and Ireland.

Dan loved golf, skiing, playing cribbage and blackjack, dogs, old cars and old friends.  He never knew a stranger and always had a ready smile and handshake to offer.  The twinkle in his blue eyes reflected his devilish spirit.  A resident of Rancho Bernardo for 22 years, he was a familiar sight in the neighborhood where he walked for exercise and handed out treats to the neighborhood dogs.  Family, friends, and animals all sorely miss him. 

Services will be held at a later date at the Miramar National Cemetery.  Donations can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
501 St. Jude Place, Memphis TN 38105
Tel: 1-800-805-5856
Web: http://www.stjude.org/

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