Major General David F. Wherley Jr., FCRH ’69, a retired commanding general in the District of Columbia National Guard, and his wife, Ann, both 62, were among nine people killed on June 22 when a Metrorail train slammed into the back of another train near the Maryland border.
Wherley began his military career in 1969 when he received his commission as a second lieutenant through Fordham’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).
He joined the District of Columbia National Guard after being released from active duty. He rose through the ranks, eventually logging more than 5,000 hours of flying time in various missions, including deputy operations group commander for fighters at the Prince Sultan Air Force base in Saudi Arabia.
From 2003 until his retirement a year ago, he commanded the 2,500 soldiers and airmen in the District of Columbia Army and Air National Guard units.
He also served as commander of the 113th Fighter Wing at Andrews Air Force Base from 1998 to 2003. It was in this position that, on 9/11, Wherley deployed pilots with orders from Vice President Dick Cheney to protect the White House and to take out any aircraft that threatened the Capitol.
“They said, ‘Challenge them; try to turn them away. If they don’t turn away, use whatever force is necessary to keep them from hitting buildings downtown,’” Wherley told The Washington Post in 2002.
Fordham Executive Director of Athletics Frank McLaughlin, FCRH ’69, remembered playing on the University’s basketball team with Wherley during their freshman year. Even then, McLaughlin said, he exhibited leadership qualities.
“It’s really just devastating; you see a guy who’s worked so hard and was so successful, and it happened too quickly,” he said.
Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, in announcing the identity of several victims, called Wherley “as fine a public servant as anyone I have ever met.”
The Wherleys are survived by a son, David, a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army Golden Knights; a daughter, Betsy, and one grandchild.