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20th IS Airmen welcome home one of their own

Members of the Patriot Honor Guard from Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., carry the remains of U.S. Air Force Col. Fredric M. Mellor as he is laid to rest at Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery Sept. 28. Mellor was declared Missing in Action when he was shot down during a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam Aug. 13, 1965.

Members of the Patriot Honor Guard from Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., carry the remains of U.S. Air Force Col. Fredric M. Mellor as he is laid to rest at Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery Sept. 28. Mellor was declared Missing in Action when he was shot down during a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam Aug. 13, 1965.

CRANSTON, R.I. --

Airmen from the 20th Intelligence Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, honored and welcomed home a fellow squadron mate, Col. Fredric M. Mellor, on Sept. 28, 2018.

According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Accounting Agency, on Aug. 13, 1965, Mellor, then a captain with the 20th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, predecessor to the 20th IS, was shot down while piloting an RF-101 Voodoo aircraft on a photo reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam.

Mellor survived ejection from the aircraft and made initial radio and beeper contact with friendly rescue aircraft. However, rescue crews were unable to locate him and he was listed as missing in action. Investigations later revealed that enemy militia killed Mellor shortly after he landed.

On July 13, 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency identified Mellor’s remains and he was returned to Cranston for burial in September.

Airmen from the 20th IS, the squadron’s most recent quarterly award winners, and their commander, Lt. Col. Joseph Watson, attended the interment in Mellor’s hometown.

Watson and the four Airmen were honored to participate in the remembrance of Mellor’s life and service.

“It was so important because in the military services, we cling to the thought that we will never forget our POW/MIAs and that we will always remember,” said Watson. “We must seize these kinds of opportunities for our remembrance to ring true. It was never, if we could go, it was always, that we must go—we must show we remember.”

The 20th IS Airmen were met by members of Mellor’s family, who were grateful to have uniformed personnel in attendance.

“The homecoming and service highlighted so many reasons why the military is a family,” said Capt. Maria Carriedo, flight commander in the 20th IS and one of the four Airmen selected to attend. “My Airmen and I were welcomed with open arms by Col. Mellor’s family, and we were able to get a glimpse into his life from those who were most important to him.”

In addition to the 20th IS, many Vietnam veterans were in attendance to show their support and gratitude, along with the Hanscom Air Force Base honor guard, Rhode Island Air National Guard leadership and Rhode Island police officers and firefighters.

Master Sgt. Zackery Simbre, non-commissioned officer in charge of target mensuration at the 20th IS, was also selected by Watson to attend. He said it was a service he will never forget, taking place over two days, including a flyover and missing man formation of military aircraft, a 21 gun salute, bagpipes and a dove release. 

“I felt honored and grateful that I was invited by my commander, Lt. Col. Watson, to attend Col. Mellor’s homecoming and funeral,” Simbre said. “It showed me that we stay true to the words of ‘You are not forgotten.’”

The magnitude of the event was not lost on Nik Waller, historian for the 363d Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing.

“That the Airmen of the 20th IS welcomed home not just a fellow Airman, but a squadron mate, is a rare honor indeed,” Waller said. “Though more than 50 years separate them from Col. Mellor, the Airmen of the 20th IS had the opportunity to demonstrate the Wingman ethos in a very unique way.”