Full Name: MELVIN DOUGLAS RASH
Date of Birth: 6/8/1946
Date of Casualty: 5/22/1968
Home of Record: YORKTOWN, VIRGINIA
Branch of Service: AIR FORCE
Casualty Country: LAOS
Casualty Province: LZ
Courtesy of the Daily Press
By Jon Cawley
27 December 2009
YORK COUNTY, VIRGINIA – It took 41 years, but a York County airman missing in action since the Vietnam War has finally been laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery after his remains were positively identified earlier this year.
Melvin Douglas Rash, of Grafton, was buried with full military honors December 7, 2009, at the revered Washington-area cemetery. He had been missing since 1968, when his Air Force C-130 airplane was presumably shot down over Vietnam.
After years of dead ends, the plane's wreckage was finally positively identified in 2002 in a jungle area near the Laotian border. It took six years before military investigators — with permission from the Vietnamese government — were able to get to the site and use archaeological techniques to sift through the remaining wreckage and surrounding area where they found human remains later matched to five of the plane's nine crew members. Rash was one of those five, said Rash's older brother Larry Rash.
“I've done more grieving in the last few months than I had since he went missing,” Larry Rash said, adding that the family held out that there would be a homecoming. “Eventually, the hope just faded — although we never really gave it up. Finding the remains forced closure.”
Rash's parents, Howard and Myrtle Rash, died in 2002 and 2005, respectively. In addition to Larry Rash, Melvin Rash is survived by a sister, Ranae L. Carroll.
Even though the military notified the family in 2002 that Melvin Rash's plane had been discovered, the parents' health was such that they were never able to understand that their son may have been found, Larry Rash said.
Larry Rash said his brother joined the Air Force in 1966 after graduating from York High School. Melvin Rash spent two years in the military and was within a couple months of leaving Vietnam, after two tours of duty, when the plane and crew failed to return from a mission.
At the time, Melvin Rash was a load master on the C-130, the crew member responsible for prepping cargo for parachute drops. On the night of the crash, the crew was dropping flares over hostile territory when they came under fire, Larry Rash said.
“The rest of the squadron lost contact with the plane, and it is believed there were no survivors,” he said. “Fire on the ground is all we had until 2002.”
The investigation was hampered for years by dense jungle and “false leads” provided by those who lived in the area, Larry Rash said.
Because four of the plane's crew members are still unaccounted for, some unidentified bone fragments found at the scene will be symbolically buried at Arlington sometime in 2010, Larry Rash said.
With the recovery of Rash's remains, his status on York County's 9-year-old War Monument will be updated from its current missing in action designation.
Melvin Rash will be honored at a York County Memorial Day ceremony next year “because we've finally seen him brought home and buried,” said Tim Smith, of York's Historical Committee.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
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