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He fought for freedom

Red Level resident Vernon Ingram is quick to name the best thing about serving his time in the U.S. military — and that’s discovering his best friend.

For Ingram, 88, it wasn’t about serving in the wars, even though he did plenty of that — World War II through Vietnam.

It wasn’t about the travels, because he did that too — India, Germany, Australia and ports throughout the world.

It was about best friend Rex Fisher, and the countless other friendships Ingram made during his 27-year career in the U.S. Air Force.

“I wouldn’t trade (my time in the military) for nothing,” Ingram said. “I have a lot of fond memories — fellowship, friends and the discipline. I’d recommend it to everyone. I still miss it.”

In May 1940, Ingram graduated from Red Level High School. By August, he was stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery to begin his journey as an aircraft maintenance technician.

From Maxwell, he traveled to Orlando and West Palm Beach, Fla. It was there he met Rex Fisher.

“We were both 20 years old and away from home for the first time,” Ingram said. “We just fit. We were in the same unit and stayed together until we came back from overseas after the war.

“He was right with me when I married my high school sweetheart, Ida Garvin,” he said.

Garvin is now deceased and Ingram is married to his current wife, Agnes.

“Rex even went with us on my honeymoon (with Ida), that’s how good of friends we were,” Ingram said. “He didn’t stay right with us. There are some limits to friendship, you know.”

Right after Pearl Harbor — January 1942, to be exact — the two arrived in what is now modern Pakistan. At the time, it was part of India.

“After the war, they split India and part of it became Pakistan,” he said. “It was really bad in India. It was dirty. We were in the desert and it wasn’t home. I was glad to get out of there.”

Once they arrived stateside, the friends were sent to separate duty stations — Ingram back to Maxwell AFB and Fisher to Florida, but the two never lost touch.

“I stayed in until 1969 for 27 years,” Ingram said. “From Maxwell, I went to Germany, back to Tampa, Fla., then to Oklahoma. When Korea was going on, I went to Okinawa. That was really nice — the area I mean. Still I was glad to come home.

“Rex lives in Clearwater, Fla.,” he said. “We still talk every now and then. We had reunions every year, until we got too old to go. Now, we just talk when we can.

“The thing about serving in the military is that it’s what you make of it,” he said. “There is danger and you have to be committed. Like I said, I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”