Worland man who died in action coming home Monday

Nathan Oster

It’s been nearly five decades since the end of the Vietnam War, but for the families of more than 1,500 American troops who are still accounted for in Southeast Asia, the passage of time has brought no closure.

Thankfully that’s no longer the case for the loved ones of Alva Ray Krogram. A Worland native, Krogman’s plane was shot down over Laos on Jan. 17, 1967. He was presumed dead, but because his body was never recovered, he was listed as unaccounted for by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

His status changed July 7, 2020 — about 18 months after a scientific recovery expert working the crash site in Laos reported the recovery of possible remains. The remains were consolidated and later identified as those of Krogman.

On Monday, July 19, he’ll be coming home, back to where his journey began. A plane carrying his remains is scheduled to land at the airport in Billings at 12:51 p.m., and Mike Cowan of Bryant Funeral Home has notified the leaders of every community on the route between Billings and Worland, asking them to inform their residents know so that they can give Krogman the hero’s welcome that he’s been denied. His family members will be accompanying his remains on the journey.

Bryant said funeral home personnel and family members intend to leave Worland at 7 a.m. They will be escorted to Billings by Patriot Guard Riders from Wyoming and Montana. The casket containing Krogman’s remains will be draped in an American flag as it’s brought off the plane and loaded. From the airport, it'll be escorted to the interstate by Billings fire and police, Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office and highway patrol personnel.

Every Montana town along the route will be honoring Krogman. So, too, will those in Wyoming, according to Cowan. A group of Patriot Guard Riders from Wyoming will pick up the escort at the state line, along with the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office and the Wyoming Highway Patrol. The caravan will pass through Frannie, Cowley, Lovell, Greybull, Basin and Manderson before arriving in Worland.

Cowan said he couldn’t provide a solid timeline of when those pass-throughs would occur, citing uncertainty over how long things will take at the airport and traffic volume. He estimated that the procession would depart Billings around 1:30 to 1:45 p.m., which if true, would put them in Big Horn County sometime around 3 p.m.

“The family will be with us,” he said, noting that Krogman has two nephews and a niece who survive him. Only one of the three – a nephew – still resides in Wyoming.

Cowan said he’s been getting “a huge response” from the community leaders he contacted. “All of say they’ll do anything they can do – and that it’s their privilege.”

He encourages all residents of BHC to come out and show their support.

The Washakie County Sheriff’s Office will pick up the escort at the county line and lead the vehicles into Worland. As of late last week, the fire department there was planning to use ladder trucks to display large American and POW/MIA flags over the route of the caravan.

Services for Krogman are planned for Wednesday, July 21 at the Worland Middle School auditorium. Visitation begins at 9 a.m. with the service to follow at 11 a.m.

After the service, there will be a procession down 23th Street and Big Horn Avenue, all the way to Riverview Memorial Gardens. His final resting place will be near his parents, Marx and Lue Krogman, according to a Northern Wyoming News story. A five-jet flyover will occur when Krogman is being laid to rest at the cemetery. After that, a meal will be served at the fairgrounds.

The full details of Krogman’s life and how it ended while serving his country can be found in an obituary appearing in this week’s issue. Born April 12, 1941, he was a graduate of the Air Force Academy assigned to the 23rd Tactical Air Squadron, flying as a Forward Air Controller over Laos.

On Jan. 17, 1967, he was flying an O-1F Birddog on a NAIL FAC mission controlling air strikes against a gun site near Ban Muang Angkhan west of the DMZ. His aircraft was hit by 37mm anti-aircraft fire and crashed a few miles away near Ban Loumpoum. Krogman, who was believed to have died in the crash, was never found. Although listed as Killed, he was counted as missing because no remains were ever recovered to return home.

Mike Scott of Basin didn’t know Krogman. Also a veteran who served in Vietnam, he is a Patriot Guard Rider and will be among those providing the escort on Monday.

“This is meaningful to all veterans — but especially those of us who served in Vietnam,” said Scott, who joined the Navy about three months after Krogman’s plane was shot down.

Scott participated in a similar homecoming mission in Montana a while back, when the remains of a veteran were transported from a funeral home in Billings to the cemetery in Laurel. He called it a “tremendous” spectacle, recalling that people lined the streets and the procession stretched for miles.

Like Cowan, he’s hoping for a big community turnout on Monday.

Sgt. Scott Drewry said the Greybull Police Department intends to pick up the escort at the airport and lead it through town and Chuck Spragg, the fire chief in Greybull, said the GFD will be out in force as well as the procession passes through town.

Drewry, who is also a veteran, said a sense of service and a sense of pride can be found in the Krogman’s life and death. “Especially in these tumultuous times, it serves as a reminder of the people who were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we now have.”

Mike Scott said what transpires on Monday will also show “that we do not forget.”


Remaining MIAs

As of March 1, 2021, the Department of Defense, Washington Headquarters Service and the Department of State listed 1,584 Americans who were still unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. The total includes 1,244 in Vietnam, 285 in Laos, 48 in Cambodia and seven in China.

Krogman is one of three Wyoming men who have moved into the “accounted for” category since 1973. Dennis Clarke Cressey’s remains were identified in 1975 and Lawrence Gerald Everett’s remains were identified in 2001. Both had been listed as missing in Vietnam.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency lists four Wyoming men as unaccounted for: SFC Harry Bob Coen in South Vietnam, Lt. Orville Dale Cooley in North Vietnam, Lt. Joseph Leslie Hart in Laos and WO1 Thomas William Skiles in Cambodia. Coen is listed as MIA: Presumptive Finding of Death; the status of the other three are Killed In Action-Body Not Returned.