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Colfax veteran joined the military to see the world

Paul Walters joined the U.S. Air Force because he wanted to get off the farm and see the world. It was important to him that he experience more of what it had to offer, and he’d already had a taste.

In 1959, the year he graduated from Martensdale High School, Paul had the opportunity to travel with his family to Germany and visit his father’s home.

Paul’s father had grown up near Berlin. He worked in a creamery with the goal of one day moving to America. As the second son, he’d stood little chance of inheriting and wanted the opportunity to start a new life abroad.

When Paul’s father had told his family he wanted to move, his uncle had insisted he first serve his country in the German military, so he did two years of service under the Kaiser several years before World War I. After he completed his service, he immigrated to the United States.

When Paul visited Germany with his family, he saw the effects of a divided Germany and what life was like for people with little freedom, which instilled him with a high regard for the freedom America has.

He enrolled in Drake University, taking part in the ROTC program there, and studied for two years after which he enlisted in Des Moines.

Paul received his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, located in San Antonio. Afterward, he was stationed in Keesler Air Force Base in Beloxi, Miss., where he received further training for work with electronics.

His orders came up, and Paul was on his way to getting his wish. He was to be deployed to Ankara, the capital of Turkey and its second largest city; Paul was going to get to see more of the world.

“It was rewarding for me, being in a country like that,” Paul said. “I got to see what other people lived like … most people never realize the freedom we have here, and what it can be like other places.”

Paul’s duty was quiet, and slightly less than 18 months later, he returned to the United States and to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha. Offutt is the home of the U.S. Strategic Command, and Paul continued to work with electronics there until his discharge in 1966.

American involvement in the Vietnam War was heating up at the time, and Paul was asked if he’d want to stay on to train as a helicopter pilot since he’d already obtained a pilot’s license in the civilian world, but he wanted to return to his education.

He continued his coursework at Grand View College in Des Moines, and he was married to his wife, the former Linda Magg, in September of 1968. They had two daughters, Renee and Stephanie, both who work in Des Moines and live close to them. While he was helping to raise his family, Paul worked 23 years for Snyder and Associates, where he worked as an engineer tech, inspecting roadways, sewer systems and other public works.

He remains very involved in his local AmVets and American Legion chapters in Colfax, rarely missing any meetings and always lending his voice to the decision-making process.

Staff writer Matt Nosco may be contacted at (515) 674-3591 or at

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