To the people of a small area in northern France, he was an unknown American fighter pilot who gave his life rather than crash his burning plane into their village.
To the people of Modesto and certainly the vast majority of those now living in his hometown of Ceres, his is simply another name etched into granite monuments listing those killed in war – memorialized but not really remembered.
And to his nephew, he was for decades more legend than real: the dashing and daring uncle who galloped horses, flew planes and died for his country.
Now, nearly 65 years after he died, Walter F. Perra has been brought back to life in fact, documents, lore, video and tribute. His memory will be honored Friday in a ceremony in the Les Corvées district of Vernouillet, France, where he died June 15, 1944.
Ceres native Mark Perra, the nephew born three years after Walter's death, will speak at the ceremony.
"I'm going back to thank this village for doing what we couldn't," Mark Perra said. On behalf of his family, he'll thank them for giving him a proper burial and for treating him as one of their own.
Walter Perra's story is one of bravery and sacrifice, no different from those of so many others who gave their lives during World War II and other wars. Perra's story, though, took decades to assemble even though he lived only 24 years.
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