Legionnaire of the Month
In our continuing series of “Legionnaire of the Month” stories we feature another WW II Veteran. Virgil Inglett’s life story started on March 30, 1917 on a farm near Rock Rapids IA. Unfortunately, Virgil is no longer able to share the details of his long full productive interesting life. The following information was shared with me by his wife Gerrie. Virgil always had a love for airplanes and has flown planes for as long as she can remember. When Virgil was 24 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Virgil responded by enlisting in the Air Force. He completed Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio TX. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Virgil wanted to go overseas and help with the war effort. However, the Air Force refused his request as they had other plans. They told Virgil he was needed more at Lackland Air Base. They told him that his skills as a pilot would be more valuable as an instructor. Consequently most of his remaining tour of duty was spent in Texas as an Aviation Instructor.
I hope to do more research to learn what types of planes he taught pilots to fly. Gerrie said he flew many different planes. I’d like to know--was he perhaps responsible for teaching some of the pilots that Col. Doolittle led in the 1st raid against Japan? Or did he help train some of the 1,250 bomber pilots who completed the heaviest Air Raid in Berlin in 1944? We will probably never know how many pilots he trained or whatever happened to many of them. But we do know Virgil must have had a tremendous positive impact on our air defense system of WW II.
Although Virgil owned planes and flew them Gerrie said his real passion was medicine. After the war ended Virgil went back to school and eventually became a Medical Doctor. He did his Internship in South Bend, Indiana. Dr. Inglett continued his entire medical career in South Bend until retirement in 1979. His wife Gerrie said he could see Notre Dame from his office window. Dr. Inglett still has the first dollar he ever earned from delivering his first baby. After paying the nurses and other staff, he had one dollar left so he wrote the baby’s name on that dollar bill and framed it. Times were tough and cash was hard to come by. Dr. Inglett took whatever patients were able to give him. It sounds like they always had plenty of chicken or eggs to eat.
In 1981 Dr. Inglett married Gerrie Sutton. Gerrie had two boys from a previous marriage and Virgil had 2 boys and one girl from a previous marriage. In 1982 the Ingletts moved to Canton SD and in 1992 they moved to Sherman SD. Virgil and Gerrie have been Legion and Auxiliary members of Post 23 since moving here.
Virgil and Gerrie remained very active in retirement and both drove motorcycles. They both enjoyed hunting and fishing. The above photo is of Virgil enjoying one of his favorite pastimes—fishing on the MO River. Although retired, they also worked part time. They delivered cars throughout the Midwest for Enterprise Rental. When Virgil turned 90 he felt he should retire from the “car delivery business”. As long as his health allowed, Virgil managed to continue keeping busy. One of his other hobbies is woodworking. He built 57 cedar chests and gave all but two away. When I looked at the one he made for Gerrie it was obvious, Virgil has some real woodworking skill. The top of this cedar chest had a beautiful inlayed design made with a variety of woods of different colors.
With declining health Gerrie has been Virgil’s primary care giver. Gerrie said “we hear a lot of bad things about the VA System but the Sioux Falls VA has provided better care than anyone else”. His care now includes home hospice services.
I regret that it is no longer possible to obtain some of Virgil’s stories about his military and professional career. It would have been most interesting and fascinating. We want to say “thank you Virgil”. You have served our country and mankind well. The Lord has blessed you and allowed you to make a big contribution to many over your 97 years.
POST SCRIPT: Prior to this being published, Virgil passed away on July 21st. The family has requested that we still publish the article in honor of Virgil. My lesson in this is a reminder that we all only have the moment. If there are questions of others we want to ask, ask now. Hopefully they will share and those stories can continue to live on after we are gone.