Worland airman welcomed home after 54 years

Procession, including honor escort, for U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Alva "Ray" Krogman as his remains are returned to Worland July 19, 2021 (Photo: Cowboy State Daily)

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
(this story originally appeared on Cowboy State Daily

In January 1967, U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Alva “Ray” Krogman was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War — and his family back in Wyoming was unable to say goodbye.

Until now.

After 54 years, the Worland native has finally returned home. Krogman, a 1964 graduate of the Air Force Academy, was just 25 when he was killed in action during the Vietnam War while serving with the Forward Air Controller (FAC) wing in Vietnam.

His last transmission, “I’m hit,” was sent Jan. 17, 1967, after his aircraft was struck by 37-mm anti-aircraft fire. Although others flying with him saw his plane go down in flames, his final resting place wasn’t discovered until Feb. 14, 2019, and his remains were identified in July of last year.

After the identification, efforts began to send the decorated airman home to Wyoming, culminating with a grand ceremony at the Billings, Montana, airport on Monday, July 19, followed by a procession, with an honor escort, to Worland.

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More than 100 motorcyclists, members of the Patriot Guard Riders, joined in the official procession to bring Krogman home after so many decades.

“He’s been in his plane for the last 54 years,” said Kevin Curtis, the Wyoming state captain for the Patriot Guard. “So it’s time to bring him home, and bring him home right.”

The Patriot Guard Riders made up only a fraction of the huge crowds that traveled with Krogman or lined streets in communities throughout the Big Horn Basin — in 111-degree heat — to welcome the Worland pilot back to his hometown.

The funeral service was held at the Worland Middle School Auditorium, where hundreds of people gathered to honor the young man who gave all to his country.

A veteran himself, Gary Hobbs, Patriot Guard Riders’ assistant state ride captain for the procession, said the honor and respect shown by the people along the route were befitting of the decorated war hero.

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“All the way from Billings, even through the Big Horn Basin, it was just an outpouring of love and respect,” Hobbs said. “And that’s what is very emotional for me, not only to help bring that veteran home, but to see the support in Wyoming, in Montana. Farmers, ranchers, people standing off, completely the whole way along the route.”

As the lieutenant was laid to rest — finally — at the Riverview Memorial Gardens in Worland on Wednesday, family, friends and community members were there to celebrate his life, and honor his sacrifice.

 

 

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