'We're Glad He's Back Home': MIA Pilot Finally at Rest in Rhode Island

A U.S. Air Force RF-101A Voodoo from the 33rd Tactical Group, after landing at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam, circa 1965. Air Force pilot Fredric Moore Mellor was flying a Voodoo over Vietnam when he was shot down by the enemy. (US Air Force photo/Dana Bell)
A U.S. Air Force RF-101A Voodoo from the 33rd Tactical Group, after landing at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam, circa 1965. Air Force pilot Fredric Moore Mellor was flying a Voodoo over Vietnam when he was shot down by the enemy. (US Air Force photo/Dana Bell)

EXETER, Rhode Island -- Nearly invisible in the rain clouds, a ghostly F-15 fighter screeched over the mourners at Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery and vanished in a roar of thunder.

This flyover was a sign of respect, from one combat pilot to another. Fredric Moore Mellor, an Air Force pilot from Cranston who'd been missing for over a half-century, was at last being laid to rest in the earth of his home state late Friday morning.

Honor guards from the U.S. Air Force, Cranston Police, and Patriot Guard Riders stood without flinching in the driving rain, as an Air Force hearse carrying Mellor's casket pulled up to the grave site.

Only yards away, Mellor's name is listed among the dead on the cemetery's Vietnam Memorial Honor Roll. His name is one of the few engraved with a star, symbol of a service member missing in action.

The pilot had left behind his wife and young daughter when he was sent to fight in the Vietnam War. On Aug. 13, 1965, Mellor was on a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam, flying an F-101 Voodoo jet fighter, when enemies below shot down the aircraft. He survived the crash in the jungle and radioed back, but searchers couldn't find him or his plane.

And so, for 53 years, his family endured the silence and agony of not knowing what had happened to him. Mellor was assumed dead, and the Air Force posthumously promoted him to colonel.

What the family longed for was answers.

This summer, his only child, Linda Mellor, got a call from the Air Force notifying her that forensic scientists had been able to identify her father's remains recovered from the crash site.

And so, they could bring him home.

Kasim Yarn, the state director of veterans affairs, found the rain symbolic of both tears and joy. Tears for the death of Mellor. Joy for his homecoming.

Six members of the honor guard from Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts lifted and carried Mellor's flag-draped coffin to his grave, among a long line of graves of veterans from World War II and the Korean War.

Along with Mellor's relatives and friends, and dignitaries including U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, high-ranking Air Force officers, law enforcement, the young members of the Mellor's own Air Force 20th Intelligence Squadron, 363rd Surveillance Intelligence Wing in Nebraska, also came to pay their respects.

"It's an honor to be here. We're glad he's back home," said Air Force Master Sergeant Zack Simbre.

This flag was solemnly folded and presented, along with a flag that flew over the State House, to Gail Zior, a cousin who was like a sister to Mellor, and his niece Wynne Schumacher. The women hugged the flags, and each other, as a lone bugler played taps.

Linda Mellor had remained home in San Diego, caring for her mother, Theresia. In his eulogy, Air Force Capt. Shawn M. Taylor, a chaplain at Hanscom Air Force Base, relayed Linda's thoughts about how to honor her father.

To his daughter, Mellor represents all of the troops who are still missing, Taylor said. And, she hopes that everyone who is waiting for their loved ones to return will find some peace.

Other Rhode Islanders are still missing from the Vietnam War: Charles Edward Cappelli. Laurent Norbert Dion. Curtis Abbot Eaton. Kenneth Bradford Goff Jr. George Henry Jourdenais. James Michael Ray. Edward Brendan Shaw.

Stars are engraved after their names on the Vietnam Memorial, indicating that they are still missing in action.

Mellor's star will finally be removed.

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This article is written by Amanda Milkovits from The Providence Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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