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News 18 sits down with one of Lafayette's oldest living Marines

The spotlight has been on South Korea in recent weeks for the 2018 Winter Olympic games. But for one man, South Korea means so much more than Olympic medalists. Lafayette's oldest living marine from the Korean War is sharing his stories from the Korean war.

Posted: Mar. 2, 2018 10:47 PM
Updated: Mar. 5, 2018 1:58 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI)-- The spotlight has been on South Korea in recent weeks for the 2018 Winter Olympic games.
But for one man, South Korea means so much more than Olympic medalists.
Lafayette's oldest living marine from the Korean War is sharing his stories.

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"My Mother in Law, she's very good, she nicknamed me Wild Bill."

Meet "Wild" Bill Letson.
At 86-years-old, you could say Letson's life has been a bit of a wild ride.

Bill Letson grew up in Alabama. 
His father was a farmer and hoped that his son would eventually take over the family farm.
However, Letson didn't see a future for himself in farming.

He took a bus from his hometown in Moulton, Alabama to Pontiac, Michigan.
He worked with General Motors in Michigan for two years before he was drafted into the Marines at the age of 19.
The year was 1950.

"There was 42 of us drafted. And he said these first six people when you hear your name called, I was the second one, raise your right hand. You're in the Marine corps now," said Letson. 

Not long after being drafted, Letson was sent to South Korea to fight in the Korean war.

While in the marines, he was in the infantry, artillery and also did reconnaissance.
Some memories, more than others, left a bad taste in his mouth.

"For 13 months we ate out of tin cans," Letson said. "Everything, corned beef hash. I couldn't stand it."

The war was a long three years, and Letson says, "you don't forget it."
But the war wasn't Letson's only fight.

"I had cancer twice on the top of my head," Letson said. "But... I'm still here."

Letson says no other fight in his life will ever compare to the Korean War.

"One time I had the feeling I'd never see America again," Letson said. "I was pretty happy, when you put your foot back in the United States."

When the war ended in July of 1953, Letson was traveling home to Alabama when he made a stop in Lafayette.
During that stop, he met a woman named Betty and fell in love.

They married the next year, made Lafayette their home, and Letson never went back to Michigan.
So whether you call him Bill, Willie or Wild Bill, at 86-years-old, the American Legion now recognizes Letson as Lafayette's oldest living Marine from the Korean War.

"You can see why everybody wants to come to the United States.. because it's free," said Letson.

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