Northern Virginia Daily News - Monday, March 18, 2002
A Great Service
Former Fighter Pilot Recalls His Military Days,
Promotes Grandson

By Sally Voth

Daily staff photos by Dennis Grundman
Retired Maj. Gen Ernest T. Cragg, left, places master sergeant stripes on his grandson, Steven W. Cragg, during ceremonies at the Massanutten Military Adademy Saturday.  The younger Cragg had been unaware of the promotion. He also received two other citations

 Maj. Gen. Ernest T. “Ernie” Cragg has fond memories of Woodstock dating back to when his motorcycle broke down in town during World War II. This past weekend he was back in town, this time as the guest of honor during Massanutten Military Academy’s Spring Parents’ Weekend. Cragg was the reviewing officer during the inspection of troops Saturday and gave a speech about the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the men he calls the “greatest unsung heroes” of the U.S.

He is also the proud grandfather of MMA sophomore, Steven Cragg. Both Craggs live in Arlington. Ernie Cragg, 80, said he is impressed by his grandson. “The school has done him a great service,” he said. “I’m very proud of him and how much he has achieved and attained here at the school.”

Steven Cragg has earned the Golden Eagle Award, given for maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average, each of the 10 quarters he has been at MMA. He is a military police non-commissioned officer in charge.

He said he wants to either join a special forces unit or become a fighter pilot. The elder Cragg was a fighter pilot, flying two missions during the D-Day Invasion. “There’s something about flying all by yourself,” he said. “You’re the only man in that airplane. You can play with the clouds. You can dive in and out of them. When you go into combat, it’s you and that other guy.”   Ernie Cragg shot down two German planes. “There’s no other exhilaration quite like it - also scary as hell,” he said.

  Back in 1943, Ernie Cragg was riding from Texas on a Harley Davidson when he burned out a piston on the highway in Woodstock. He stopped at a gas station where an older couple called a young man. He sent Ernie Cragg to Roanoke to get some parts. When he came back, the young man fixed the motorcycle. “I have very fond memories [of Woodstock],” Ernie Cragg said. “[Fixing the bike] didn’t cost me a dime except for the pistons. So, Woodstock is a very famous place in my heart.”

After World War II, Cragg remained in the military, serving first the U.S. Army and later the U.S. Air Force. He served in the Korean War. The West Point graduate’s military assignments took him to France, England, Italy, and the Pentagon, before he retired in 1975.

It’s only recently that Ernie Cragg started telling stories about his military  experiences. “I never heard any stories about World War II until about the 50th Anniversary [of D-Day],” his son, Edward Cragg, said. “[1994] was the first time he would start talking about it.”

While he has some very pleasant memories from his military career, there are also some terrible ones, Ernie Cragg said. His two brothers also served in World War II. One lost a leg. The other, a flying ace, lost his life at 24.

Ernie Cragg has no qualms, though, about his grandson serving his country. “I don’t worry that it’s a tough, mean world out there,” Ernie Cragg said. “I just figure he’s being prepared to march into that society head high and will be a stalwart citizen.”

Steven Cragg said he’s always wanted to become the best he can be. “I realize perfection isn’t a possibility, and that there’s no shame in not reaching it,” he said. “However, there’s great honor in coming close to it.”

After Steven started thriving at MMA, I began to think about arranging for Dad to review the Corps. He had gone up with us to investigate the school before Steven's enrollment, and had attended Steven's graduation from middle school to high school. In my planning I thought that the ideal time would be during the parents' weekend activities Steven's senior year. In 2002 the former president, Jack Albert, left and Col. Roy Zinser took charge of the school. That fall, during a "meet the new president" event, I suggested that Dad could be a reviewing officer someday. After Christmas I received a call from the school requesting that Dad come that spring as part of the Spring Parent's weekend and Military Ball. I was a bit reluctant at first - after all Steven was just a sophomore and I still thought his senior year would be more appropriate.

The school talked me into it by offering to invite him back Steven's senior year. That weekend was everything I could have hoped for. Not long after Dad's health began to deteriorate. By the start of Steven's senior year he was unable to travel any distance, and he became bedridden in February 2004. He was unable even to attend Steven's graduation in a wheel chair. After two long and hard years, he died 9 March 2006. I am so appreciative that MMA pushed to have him come in 2002. As it turned out it was then or never. I have learned from this event and am no longer putting off things until "Someday". My new philosophy is "Now is Someday"

Ed Cragg, 12 March 2006