After Vietnam veteran LT. COL. RALPH WALD was acquitted of killing his wife’s lover, he celebrated by taking her to her favorite restaurant, Waffle House.

“I am elated, absolutely elated,” said Wald’s wife Johnna, 41. “Because my husband puts me first, he’s taking me for my favorite meal, the patty-melt platter. “I love him!”

It was an incredible end to a bizarre tale of sex, booze, erectile dysfunction and a man shot to death with his pants around his knees.

Wald, 70, was charged with second-degree murder after he awoke in their home near Tampa, Fla., to find Johnna having sex with her old flame Walter Conley, 32, on the living room floor.

“I went to get a glass of water around mid­night and saw a strange man having sex with my wife,” said Wald. “I took my gun from the bedroom and shot him three times, including in the head and stomach.

“If the same thing happened again, I would do the same thing. I didn’t think I did anything wrong.”

Wald claimed he shot Conley in self-defense be­cause he believed his wife was being raped.

“I got a gun and I shot him,” he admitted. “And I’m not trying to hide that from anybody. I said it to the 911, I said it to the two police detectives, I said it in court. I’ve been telling the truth.”

Wald, a highly decorated com­bat veteran who was awarded the Silver Star – one of the high­est decorations for military valor – married Johnna Flores, his next-door neighbor, on Oct. 31.

Johnna, his fifth wife, had been involved with Conley, a laborer who had a record of petty theft, on and off for years. She said that on March 10, the night of the shooting, she was drunk on cognac and had prob­ably passed out because her memory was hazy.

Wald, who suffers from erectile dysfunc­tion, said: “I was in the infantry for over 20 years. Part of my job was to go out and keep my people alive and stop other people from be­ing alive, and I did my job well.

“What happened here that night, I very much relate to close combat. The same sort of thing I’ve seen in the tunnels in Vietnam. I didn’t know if he had a weapon or weapons with him. All I knew was somebody was fornicating with my wife.”

After two days of testimony in May, jurors took just two hours to proclaim Wald not guilty.

“Now I’m concentrating on putting our marriage back together,” he said. “My wife is undergoing counseling for bipolar disorder and alcohol prob­lems. Then we are both going to family counseling.

“I love my wife and she loves me. We’re deter­mined to put this nightmare behind us and move on with our lives.”