Colonel Gordon W. Keiser, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

U.S. Veteran

December 4, 1937 – July 11, 2021

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Retired Marine Corps Colonel Gordon W. Keiser, 83, died July 11, 2021, at his home in Burke,
Virginia, from complications of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. The son of Dr. Alvin
 Ferdinand Keiser and Luella Keiser, he was a native of Omaha, Nebraska, who grew up in
Denver, Colorado.
Colonel Keiser—Gordy—talked to everyone: he joked with the waitresses and the hotel clerks,
he knew about the secretaries’ children, and he asked the right questions of teenagers. He
wrote letters to young majors, to old commanding officers; he called his friends in hospitals, he
left messages to pass on news or pass the time. He shocked with his outrageously ribald jokes,
but he was harmless and funny. Clearly a man’s man at home on the battlefield and in a bar.
Colonel Keiser graduated in 1959 from Virginia Military Institute and immediately entered the
Marine Corps for what would be a 30-year career. In 1967, he began a year’s combat tour as a
senior advisor in Vietnam with the 21st Vietnamese Ranger Battalion, having previously served
as a platoon leader in 2d Force Reconnaissance Company and Director of the Drill Instructor
School at Parris Island.
After earning a Master of Arts in Political Science at Tufts University in 1971, Colonel Keiser
returned to Vietnam several months later for a second yearlong combat tour, this time as
advisor to Brigade 258, Vietnamese Marine Corps, until the cease-fire in 1972.
After being promoted to colonel in 1981, he served three years in Brussels at NATO
From 1985 to 1988, Colonel Keiser commanded the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (Special
Operations Capable). Responsible for 2,000 Marines and sailors, he was commended for
organizing the first Marine Air-Ground Task Force to support Operation Earnest Will in the
Arabian Gulf. Immediately before, he was designated Officer-in-Charge of the Special
Operations Training Group, II Marine Amphibious Force, where he worked to develop innovative
special operations training programs in concert with law enforcement agencies including the FBI
and NYPD.
He retired from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune as its chief of staff in 1989.
Colonel Keiser began his second career in 1989 with the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis,
Maryland, as the operations director and deputy director of seminars. With his keen interest in
military history and strategy, it was a natural step for him to eventually became senior editor for
the organization’s magazine, Proceedings. He retired in 2005. Fred Rainbow, longtime editor in
chief of Proceedings, remembered “Gordy pouring himself into every issue and all of the
seminar programs; he remained involved in his capacities as trusted advisor, manuscript
evaluator, and mentor.”
Colonel Keiser’s book, “The U.S. Marine Corps and Defense Unification: 1944-1947,” was
published in 1996 and remained on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Reading List for many
years. And earlier version was subtitled “The Politics of Survival.” Francis G. (Frank) Hoffman, a
distinguished research fellow at National Defense University, noted that “Colonel Keiser was
best known for his monograph on defense unification, which certainly reflected the Corps
A member of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation board and committee that worked
feverishly to launch the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Colonel Keiser was honored to
have his name included on a plaque acknowledging the founders placed just inside the front
door of the museum after its opening in 2006. The outgoing chairman of the board, retired
Marine Lieutenant General Robert Blackman, saluted the individuals named on the plaque in
2016 as “these Marines…[who] were the first to envision the mighty Museum in which we
celebrate tonight.”
Colonel Keiser’s personal decorations included the Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of
Merit (2); Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” (2); and the Navy Commendation Medal. He
graduated from the U.S. Army Ranger and Airborne Courses and the U.S. Navy Scuba School.
Colonel Keiser was a life member of the U.S. Naval Institute, a former board member of the
Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, a member of the Marine Corps Association, the Armed
Forces Communications and Electronics Association, the Marine Corps Force Recon
Association, and the 75th Ranger Regiment Association.
At his death, Colonel Keiser was surrounded by his wife of 57 years, the former Gloria E.
Jackson, his sons Duane of Richmond, John of Clifton, and his daughter Paige of Burke. He
also leaves three granddaughters, Emma, Kate, and Julianna; two daughters-in-law, Rosemary
Keiser and Barbara Keiser. He was predeceased by his brother Duane of San Diego, California.
The family has lived in Burke since 1989.
Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery, with arrangements to be made at a later date. Any
gifts in his memory may be directed to The Semper Fi & America’s Fund

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