From WWII to Vietnam: Wasilla veteran remembers 28 years of service
There may not be many people who can claim they fought in World War II, became a German prisoner of war then stayed in the military to complete two tours of duty in Vietnam, but Wasilla resident Walter Ferguson is one of them.
Walt and his wife Lila are both 91 years old. They met in their Kansas high school and were married when they were 19. The year was 1943.
A few months before, Walt had signed up for the army. It wasn’t long before he was flying missions over northern Europe. And it wasn’t long before he was shot down.
“Fortunately, I had a parachute,” said Walt. “Which opened just before I got on the ground.”
Walt survived, only to be captured by the Germans. But, as Lila explains, no one saw his parachute deploy. It was assumed that he was dead.
“They didn’t see his parachute,” said Lila. “Out of the 20 people on the the plane, they saw three parachutes. His was the fourth one. Nobody expected him back.”
Lila said she kept the faith, certain her husband was still alive. Still, she didn’t hear from him for seven months — the time he spent in German POW camps. One day she got a call.
It was Walt.
“He said he was alive, he was on his way home. Probably see me in a week,” said Lila. “The next morning he was at my door. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to fainting.”
Walt took about 11 months off from the service before he decided civilian life wasn’t for him and got right back in. He stayed for the next 26 years. Lila’s only complaint? When he volunteered for a second tour of duty in Vietnam.
“That’s one time when I could have cheerfully rung his neck,” said Lila laughing.
She was worried Walt might not make it back home.
But he did.
Overall, the couple said the military life was good to them.
“Every time we got to the point where we couldn’t stand one another, the Army sent him off some where,” joked Lila.
Lila and Walt moved in Alaska in 1969 when Walt was assigned to Fort Richardson. He retired from the military in 1971.
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