Alexander's Column

Election Day v. Veterans Day: A tale of two oaths

By Mark Alexander · Nov. 10, 2006

It is no small irony that Election Day and Veterans Day fall in the same week.

Veterans and elected officials all have one thing in common: Upon entering service, both took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

On 1 June 1789, the first law enacted by Congress was statute 1, chapter 1: an act to regulate the time and manner of administering certain oaths. It established the oath that all civilian and military officials take before entering into the service of our nation. Our Founders understood that the security of the Republic depended on leaders who would honor and uphold constitutional rule of law, lest the Republic would dissolve into a democratic state ruled by men.

Notably, the oath mandates the support and defense of our Constitution, a document revered not only for its timeless precepts, but for its crisp and clear language. The oath refers to our Constitution precisely as it was ratified, not the so called “living constitution” rewritten by judicial activists, who populate what Thomas Jefferson predicted would become “the despotic branch”.

Veterans support and defend our Constitution with their lives, while most elected officials debase it with all manner of extra-constitutional empowerment of the central government, and forced income redistribution to benefit the constituency groups which re-elect them. Military service personnel who violate the Constitution are remanded for Courts-Martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice while politicians who violate the Constitution are remanded for – re-election.

This Veterans Day, consider the story of one American who never violated his oath. That American is my friend and Patriot mentor, Col. Roger Ingvalson.

Roger was born in Austin, Minnesota, in the era between the World Wars. He was an all-American kid, attending local schools and then the University of Minnesota. He joined the Air Force in 1950 and earned his wings in 1953. He married Jacqueline in 1959, and they had one son. He spent the next nine years as an operations officer for fighter squadrons around the world.

In 1968, Roger was flying the F-105D with the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Korat Royal Air Force Base, Thailand. The air war over Vietnam was in its third year, and the pilot casualty list included Roger’s wingman and best friend, Wayne Fullam, who was shot down in late 1967.

On 28 May, Roger took off on his 87th combat sortie, leading a mission to destroy a bridge in North Vietnam. (Roger notes lightheartedly today that it is very important to keep the number of mission takeoffs and landings equal.) With 1600 hours in the F-105, he was confident that this mission would be a success. As he pulled off the target, an air controller requested that he hit an enemy truck convoy nearby.

Roger’s tactical preference was for high speed and low altitude engagement in order to assure accuracy. At about 0900, he located the convoy of Soviet-built trucks near Dong Hoi and rolled in at more than 500 knots. At 50 feet above the hard deck, he fired a long 20mm burst into the convoy.

Moments later, Roger recalls, “I heard and felt an explosion and my cockpit immediately filled with smoke. I hit the afterburner to gain valuable altitude, then pulled the canopy ejection handle to get rid of the smoke. I rocketed up to about 600 feet before my aircraft went into an uncontrollable roll. I pulled the ejection seat handle and squeezed the trigger. As I was catapulted out of the burning aircraft, the wind blast knocked me out, and I didn’t regain consciousness until just prior to landing on a dried out rice paddy.”

As he hit the ground, Roger’s first reaction was to feel for broken bones. “With 15 years of fighter-aircraft experience, I was fully aware of the fact that there is very little chance of survival during an emergency ejection at high speed and low altitude, without a multitude of injuries. To my amazement, I had no broken bones or other injuries.”

Roger had regularly attended church for 40 years, but he says his relationship with his Savior really began when he realized he had survived the ejection. He prayed and gave thanks for his survival as his would-be Communist captors were running toward him.

For the next 1,742 days, Roger endured torture, starvation, desolation, disease and one stretch of 20 months in strict solitary confinement.

Three years into his horrendous internment, Jane Fonda showed up in Hanoi to collaborate with Roger’s captors. She starred in a propaganda film purporting that American POWs were being treated humanely. Roger and other POWs were shown that film repeatedly in an effort to further break their spirit. Hanoi Jane even posed for photographs on an NVA anti-aircraft gun near his prison. She boasted of the civil unrest being fomented back home by leftists like her friend John Kerry who “aided and abetted the enemy” by accusing American service personnel in Vietnam of all manner of atrocities.

Roger received devastating news in late 1971, when he was told by his captors that his wife, Jackie, had died months earlier from complications related to multiple sclerosis. Roger recalls, “During the three years since capture, I had continually dreamed of her in a crippled condition. Then the night after receiving the tragic news, I had another dream of my dear wife – this time she was in perfect health, just like the day we were married. She had gained the victory from suffering and sin; whereas, I gained the peace of knowing that she was in heaven.” (His 13-year old son was taken in by Jackie’s parents.)

On 14 March 1973, after nearly five years of brutal incarceration, Roger and his fellow POWs, including future Senator John McCain, departed for Clark Air Base in the Philippines. There, for the first time in half a decade, he was given medical aid, wholesome food and clean clothes. “The Lord sustained me through 1,742 days of tragedy; nevertheless, I count my blessings. I was set free by the North Vietnamese Communists but had already been fully liberated by Jesus Christ.”

Col. Roger Ingvalson retired from the Air Force a couple of years after his release. His decorations included the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, seven Air Medals, and, of course, the POW Medal.

However, the most remarkable chapter in this Vietnam Vet’s story was yet to be written.

Upon his return to the United States, Roger married the widow of Wayne Fullam, his former wingman and best friend, and they raised their combined family of four sons together. After returning to his wife’s hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Roger spent the rest of his career in prison ministry.

To Roger, and all our fellow Patriots who have served their nation with courage and great sacrifice, we offer our heartfelt gratitude. You have honored your oath to “support and defend,” as do those on the frontline in Iraq today. You have kept the flame of liberty, lit by our Founders, burning bright for future generations.

In 1918, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month marked the cessation of World War I hostilities. That date is now designated in honor of our veterans, and a focal point for national observance is the placing of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

Let us never, ever forget.

(On a personal note: It is somehow fitting, that in final edit on an essay honoring veterans this morning, I received word that my Uncle Ted – a Naval Aviator and my father’s wingman in World War II, passed away. Farewell to another Patriot Veteran of the Greatest Generation. He was one of my heroes, a gentleman who always had a smile and a great story. Thank you, Uncle Ted, for introducing your sister to my father!)

9 Comments

cornell said:

Thank you, Mark, for another excellent essay. This one brought a lump to my throat. It should be read in every classroom, every year, in America. As a Canadian, I share your ideals. This being Remembrance Day in Canada, I have just returned from a remembrance ceremony. God bless our free countries and the great people who have lived and died preserving our freedoms.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 1:08 PM

Bob Murphy said:

Mark, great story.How appropriate and cool is Roger marrying his wingman's widow and raising the joint kids! I got an ear to ear grin reading the story.My regards to him when you see him again and thank him for his service for me, please.Bob MurphyV Corps LRRP Co (Abn) 3779Ffm, W Germany 1964-67

Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 1:57 PM

Mrs Carol Capper said:

Dear Mark Alexander,I am an American living in Australia, where I teach Grade 6. I was watching a documentary about Andrews Air Force Base, how it got its name, etc. It made me think about going on the computer and out of curiosity look up Roger Ingvalson. I came across your article and was so overwhelmed.You see, at a young age of 15 in 1968, I sent away for a bracelet to wear as a way of supporting our troops during the war. I received one with a POW, Lt Col Roger Ingvalson, dated 05-28-68!! I wore it every day as a promise until he would come home. I was getting married in August,1973 and would have kept it on, except he came home in March that year. He and his family sent me letters, which I still have. I also kept the bracelet as a reminder of how precious a life can be. Being young and involved with my wedding plans, it broke my heart that his wife had died while he was in prison. Being a Christian, I prayed for him and his young boy. As the years passed, I often wondered what happened to him; I am so pleased that you wrote the article and I learned so much about him. Next year, on Veterans Day (In Australia we call it Remembrance Day)I shall share this story with my students. Thank you for sharing Roger's story! PS Aren't computers wonderful? How else would I have known this inspiring story. Again thank you and God Bless, Mrs Carol Capper

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 9:57 PM

David A. Mullins said:

While in the Air Force ('65 to '70) I was a maintance officer with a squadron of F-105s before accepting a squadron of F-111s. Your story about your dad brought back so many fond memories of the great young men that I was able to work with that I had tears streaming down my cheeks. I remember Jane and what she did to those men and if I had the ability I would have had her excuited. And for our president to honor her as one of the one hundred best women of the 20th century just heaps more reasons to vote him out of office. Shame on him.Dave MullinsP.S. Tell your father how proud all of us that served with him are of him. We wish him no more pain in his life.

Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Carol said:

Thank you for the story about Lt Col Roger Ingvalson. We seldom hear the individual stories of their courage and sacrifice. Clearly he was a hero.A good part of our problems in government stem from the 17th Amendment, which by the way took place in 1913 during Woodrow Wilson presidency, one of the worst in our history. The 17th changed the process for senators being sent to Congress. Until 1913 they were appointed by the states to represent the interests of the STATE, NOT the country at large. The representatives were and still are elected by the people to represent the People. That is why we are losing our States Rights. Article 1, sec 3 of our Constitution: "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, [chosen by the Legislature thereof,] for six Years; and each Senator shall have one vote."

Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 2:12 PM

Harold said:

Thanks for another great story. I read the one you posted earlier last year, and when I found out Roger was in ministry, I contacted him. He sent a very gracious reply, and it was my plan to meet up with him soon to work with him a little. Guess now, we will meet for the first time in heaven! That will be a glorious day. May you never stop you fight for freedom, and May God Bless America!HaroldMissionary/EvangelistMount Dora, FL

Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Howard Reed said:

Hello America,Hano Jane Fonda came from a family of far left entertainers. She was born to the red. She has paid for her shortcomings by becoming an anathema to the vast majority of Americans that love our country and understand its greatness. Her Hollywood career did not blossom as it was supposed to, even though she was among 'fellow travellers'. If it word the Jane Fonda label many Americans chose not to pay for a ticket.She will continue to pay for unrepentent sins and will join many of her ilk, to include current lefties in high office and other positions in the hear after. God will not be mocked.The Turban Torpedo

Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 5:28 PM

Bill said:

Over the years I have had the great honor of meeting and visiting with two medal of honor winners and a good number of unmedaled heroes. I still cannot believe that Fonda was not prosecuted for her crimes against my country and my countrymen. I'm sure many have heard the story of how she turned over evidence to the North Vietnamese that caused even more cruel treatment of our heroes captured by the north. I suppose we can expect little more from obama than to honor fonda. They are two of a kind.

Friday, January 6, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Darlene in New Jersey said:

Today a song came on the radio that took me back to the '60's and Vietnam. I remember wearing a Lt. Col, Ingavelson's POW bracelet through my high school and college years. I remember the joy I felt as I watched him deplane after captivity and walk on American soil and then the sadness when he answered my letter and told me about the loss of his wife.
I decided to Google him when I got home today and was so glad to find this article detailing his life and contributions after his return. I am so happy that he remarried and found happiness and fulfillment in his Ministry. What a remarkable man.
I have told my son the story of faithfully wearing his POW bracelet, (which I believe I sent to him), and am looking forward to sharing this part of the story with him. He is quite the History buff and was fascinated by this human aspect that he hasn't read in any History book.
Being much older now I can truly appreciate and understand his Faith and have
nothing but admiration for him and his family. I am so sorry that he had to endure all that he did but I feel Blessed to have had the opportunity to have had his life touch mine in such a small way. He is a real American Hero.

Saturday, May 3, 2014 at 9:56 PM