Remembering Peter Borsay: A Fallen Soldier I Never Knew

by Karen on May 27, 2013

(This is a repost of what a wrote a few years ago about Peter and Peggy Borsay. Each year I remember…)

It was 44 years ago today (Memorial Day) that my brother-in-law, Peter Borsay, was killed in Vietnam. Peter was married to my husband’s older sister, Peggy. Unfortunately, I never met Peter.  Steve and I met three years after Peter died so it’s a bit strange for me to “remember” Peter since I never knew him.  But I wish I had known him.  I have always had a feeling that there was something incomplete in my history with Steve’s family since I never knew Peter.

Peter’s death was even more tragic (if there is such a thing) because he was killed by “friendly fire” during a cease fire: military speak for our side killed him by accident.  A helicopter still had its load of weapons and was told to discharge the load before returning to base by dumping it in an empty field. However, the field wasn’t empty. Five men were injured and Peter was killed — instantly, from what we were told. It was a horribly tragic communications glitch.

Peter was in his prime when he was killed; he was in graduate school with a budding academic career ahead of him. Peter and Peggy had only been married 17 months when she got the news the Peter was gone. She became a widow at 23 years old.  She never remarried or had children. She went on to get her doctorate and worked in the corporate world until she passed away in 2006  after losing a valiant fight with  breast cancer. But I think a part of her heart died that Memorial Day with Peter and there was always a sense that she never recovered from her broken heart.  On a cold December day, we buried Peg’s remains next to Peter’s, so many years later, in a family cemetery in West Virginia surrounded by Peter’s family.

I remember the first time I went to the Vietnam memorial in Washington and looked up Peter.  There is a large book with all the soldier’s names and I looked up Peter Borsay.  He is on Panel 23W – Line 25, pretty much
smack in the middle of the memorial.  The names are engraved in the granite and I remember touching the stone and running my hand over the indentation.  There was something almost comforting, if that makes sense,
about touching the name of this man who loved my sister-in-law, a womanI loved like a sister.

Peter and Peg are both gone now.  We don’t always understand or agree with “policy” but what I do know is this: Real people give real lives for our freedom. My life has been touched by a soldier I never knew and the world is different place because of his sacrifice.

I guess that’s the essence of Memorial Day: to remember those we knew, and those we never had the chance to know, who have served our country by giving their very lives — and also to remember those that loved them. For that, this Memorial Day, I am grateful.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Allan Kite 02.05.14 at 8:00 pm

I served at there same time as Peter. We were in the same Company during Advanced Infantry Training (AIT). I had a great deal of respect for Peter and was often felt bad for him since he wasn’t in great physical shape and struggled to keep up on “forced marches”. He did, however, excel intellect, sometimes to his detriment as those in command couldn’t relate to what he was saying at times. We were assigned to different Companies in Viet Nam and I lost track of him only to learn after returning to Utah in 1970 the he had died.
Again, I thought highly of Peter, and others of my Army brothers. So I just wanted to pass along my thoughts to you and others. Best wishes and God Bless. Feel free to contact me for additional thoughts, if you wish…..Allan Kite….Syracuse, Utah

Adriana 03.23.15 at 10:12 pm

Thanks for sharing about your family’s loss. I am researching the war for a univ project and came across Peter’s picture. I don’t know why but it struck a chord me and I looked him up and found your blog. Thank you.

Leonard Byerly 09.03.15 at 6:04 pm

I was with Peter the day he died.
I was able to speak at a memorial day picnic in which
we remembered Peter as well as our interpreter Thang.
I was sadden to her about his wife, I had tried to find out
about her and this is the first information about her.
Thank you

Sue Ulrey 05.30.16 at 3:30 pm

Dear Karen,
I just found your blog on Memorial Day 2016. I’d like your husband and his family to know that Peter made a difference in the world. When I was a student at West Virginia University, he was my speech instructor in summer school. I chose to take speech during summer session because I was shy and felt this required course would be the death of me. During the summer, I figured, it would be a smaller, more relaxed class. Little did I know that this young graduate student would instill in me the confidence that would allow me to become a teacher. Peter’s intellect was inspiring; he was uniquely gifted. I was very sad to hear of his death only a few years later. Over the years I’ve thanked my lucky stars that our paths crossed.
In addition, I was acquainted with Peggy, who was a sorority sister, but a few years older. Unfortunately, I lost track of her. Only today did I learn that she, too, is gone. Reading about her career, I see she contributed greatly to the world. She carried on so very well, with Peter’s influence in her forever, I’m sure. Thank you so much for writing your tribute. Best wishes to all the Borsays.

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