John Kirla was born on June 22, 1922, in Port Chester, New York. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on December 10, 1942, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces in April 1943. Kirla was commissioned a 2d Lt and was awarded his pilot wings at Napier Field, Alabama, on January 7, 1944, and after completing P-51 Mustang transition training, he joined the 362nd Fighter Squadron of the 357th Fighter Group in England in July 1944. He was credited with the destruction of 11.5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, plus 0.5 on the ground while strafing enemy airfields, between September 1944 and January 1945. Maj Kirla returned to the United States after the war ended in July 1945, and left active duty on March 6, 1947. John Kirla died on October 1, 2011, and was buried at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Chester, Connecticut.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.