WORLAND — It has been over 50 years since Worland native and Vietnam veteran Alva R. Krogman, better known as Ray, disappeared over Laos, and in about a month, he will return to Worland for his final resting place.
A member of the 504th Tactical Air Support Squadron, First Lieutenant Krogman was on a visual reconnaissance mission over Savannakhet Province, Laos on January 17, 1967.
According to a May 1988 article in the Northern Wyoming Daily News by Don Hall, Krogman’s job was to fly with another spotter plane in search of targets for tactical jet fighter planes and mark the targets with smoke rockets. Krogman’s aircraft was struck by enemy fire and crashed.
Accompanying his Distinguished Flying Cross Award, a note reads that “Lieutenant Krogman managed to warn his wingman in time for them to make evasive action.”
The wingman saw no parachute.
The lieutenant’s mother, Lue Krogman, was informed that his body could not be recovered and he was labeled missing in action. A few days later it was determined that he could not have survived the crash, and Krogman’s status was changed to killed in action.
He was awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart.
Lue Krogman, a widow, remained hopeful that her son might come home.
In Hall’s 1988 interview, Lue said, “Ray had a great desire to make the world better. He was so sincere about it. He worked so hard for a future. Of course I believe he is alive.”
Lue’s granddaughter and Ray’s niece, Kelly Steindorf, said, “One of my favorite memories is that my grandma used to have a teeny Christmas stocking, and every year she would write Ray a little note (like) ‘Missing you,’ ‘wish you were here,’ or ‘it’s been another year.’ She would write it on a Christmas present tag, so she had several of those tucked into a stocking that always hung on her Christmas tree.”
After Lue’s passing in 1990 at 79 years old, Steindorf said that Ray’s stocking still decorates her own Christmas tree. “
That is something that was always a part of my Christmas routine,” she said.
Over the years, the family received reports on the search for Krogman’s remains, but they always turned up fruitless.
On February 14, 2019, a Scientific Recovery Expert working on Krogman’s crash site in Ban Kok Mak, Laos reported the recovery of possible remains and material evidence to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). The remains were consolidated and identified as those of First Lieutenant Krogman.
“To finally have found him is, you know, a blessing, a sense of closure,” Steindorf said. “We have been getting reacquainted with him through pictures, and I have been reacquainted with some of my cousins and family because of it.
“I was only 6 when he passed, but I only had good memories. He was the fun uncle. It has been kind of a treasure hunt for our family since finding out that they found him, we were able to go back and see more about what he did in his younger years.”
Krogman was a part of the Worland High School Class of 1959, class president, center for the football team, a member of the National Thespian Society and an Eagle Scout.
Steindorf said Krogman was a part of Troop 3, and there were three other scouts in a photo she has of him, along with the scout master. She is looking to see if they are in the area — Leo Taylor, Scout Master Larry George, Walter Wyman, and Ernest Schmoker.
“We have all different certificates and whatnot about him being successful here, there and everywhere,” Steindorf said.
Roy, Krogman’s older brother, had been in the service before him and Ray was excited to follow in his footprints. After a year in Prep School, Ray Krogman made it into the Air Force Academy and graduated with the Class of 1964.
“We’ve got different pictures and letters that he had written. He was excited about what he was doing, he was very pleased and proud to serve his country, and was fully expecting to come home,” Steindorf said tearfully.
Steindorf said that while Krogman never got a chance to start his own family, he had a girlfriend he had met while stationed in Dover, Delaware, that the family believed he had intentions to marry.
Krogman is honored in memorials across the country.
“There’s Memorial Park in Williamsburg, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the Air Force Academy, several places in Wyoming,” said Steindorf. “We’ve got his name noted in so many different places, it’s amazing.”
After so many years away from home, Krogman’s final resting place will be at Riverview Memorial Gardens in Worland near his parents Marx and Lue Krogman, a spot Lue had reserved for him.
“We’re planning on having our own little family ceremony, but we would love to have friends and anyone else who is interested attend,” said Steindorf.
A lot of the ceremony is still in the planning stages, but Steindorf said the date is tentatively set for July 21.
Krogman’s remains will be flown into Billings and placed in a casket, then escorted to Worland by the Patriot Guard Riders. It has been suggested that the ceremony be held at the Worland Community Center rather than a funeral home in order to accommodate everyone wishing to attend, “but it’s really all hearsay until we get it finalized,” said Steindorf. “There has also been rumor of a flyover, and supposedly we will have the Honor Guard from Rapid City as well. It sounds like it could be kind of a big deal, and that is what I’m hoping for.”
The public will be invited to attend whatever events take place.
“I’m sure there are still people in Worland and other places in Wyoming who knew him,” Steindorf said. The family would welcome any old friends or classmates wishing to see him come home.