WWII vet visits base – his legacy spanned 37 years

Last week I mentioned all the photos that line walls of the Operations Building – the planes, the people who have served here before us.

Two days after I wrote that blog I had the opportunity to meet one of the gentlemen featured on the wall.

Here’s a photo of Major General Raymond A. Matera – I’m not sure how far back it dates or what rank he was here, but he is 90-years-old now. And, in all honesty, getting around better than some 60-year-olds I know!

pilot in cockpit

When he saw me taking a photo of him looking at the wall, admiring his youth – he said something along the lines of “don’t focus too much on that kid!”


But, how could I not focus on that kid? That “kid” accomplished so much in his lifetime. Things I could never even dream of.

Matera’s career began in June 1943. He originally enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served 14 months in the South Pacific during World War II. Following the war, he re-enlisted as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Air Force. He received his commission in 1949 and spent time flying the F-86, F-80 and F-84. He was awarded the Distinguished flying Cross for his service in Korea.

When he returned to the states in 1952, he was assigned as a flight commander at Truax Field, Madison, Wisconsin. He was released from active duty in July 1954 and began his long career with the Air National Guard in August 1954.

His accomplishments in the state of Wisconsin alone were beyond impressive. Here’s a listing of everything he did here:

-Fighter Pilot

-Air Operations Officer

-Squadron Commander

-Group Operations Officer

-Director of Operations

-Chief of Staff for the ANG

-The Adjutant General of Wisconsin – twice

He accomplished all of that, while still enjoying off-duty time with his wife and four children.

Now, more than 30-years-later, he visited the base – and I got to tag along. He autographed that photo of the “kid” for the squadron, and he toured the base – learning about the 176th Fighter Squadron’s undertakings.




He was light-hearted, a pleasure to be around, and insisted on being a gentleman – holding the door for me when I should have been holding the door for him.

The day flew by. It was an absolute pleasure getting the chance to meet an American hero – a World War II veteran, who has dedicated 37 consecutive years of his life to our country. He has done everything in his power to ensure our freedom – for that, I am extremely grateful!DSC_6004DSC_6029DSC_6047DSC_6039DSC_6068DSC_6035




About Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode

Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode is a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.