Nation loses a 'true hero'
By J. Parker Roberts | 1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS
| February 27, 2014
A Medal of Honor recipient,
former 1st Infantry Division Soldier and Junction City native, Walter Ehlers died
Feb. 20 in Long Beach, Calif. He was 92.
Ehlers, who received a
battlefield commission to second lieutenant in 1944, was a staff sergeant six
months earlier when he earned the Medal of Honor. He was the last living Medal
of Honor recipient who stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day and served with the 1st
Inf. Div.’s 18th Infantry Regiment.
Ehlers died Feb. 20 at a
Long Beach hospital of kidney failure, his wife, Dorothy, told The Associated Press.
The staff sergeant earned
his Medal of Honor “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of
his life above and beyond the call of duty” on June 9 and 10, 1944, when he
went ahead of his men to defend his squad, blocking his Soldiers from enemy gunfire
despite being wounded in the back. He then carried a fellow Soldier to safety
before returning to the battlefield to retrieve his rifle.
He left the Army in October
1945 and spent the next four decades of his life working for and with his fellow
“Walt Ehlers represented
the best attributes of Soldiers serving with the 1st Inf. Div. – being brave,
responsible and on point,” said Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, 1st Inf. Div. and
Fort Riley commanding general. “His acts of courage in the face of the enemy
during World War II demonstrated what a true hero he was, and his legacy will stand
the test of time. For all Soldiers and civilians representing the greater Flint
Hills Region, we give him one last salute.”
In addition to his wife of
58 years, Ehlers is survived by daughters Cathy Metcalf and Tracy Kilpatrick;
his son, retired Lt. Col. Walter D. Ehlers Jr.; sisters Leona Porter, Marjorie
Gustin and Gloria Salberg; 11 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Funeral services with full military honors for the
late D-Day veteran will be March 8 in Riverside, Calif.