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Finally home: Goldsboro native repatriated after 50 years

Team Seymour helps repatriate remains of Goldsboro native

Members of the 4th Fighter Wing honor guard remove the casket carrying the remains of Col. Edgar “Felton” Davis from a hearse, April 6, 2018, at the Eastern Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Goldsboro, North Carolina. The honor guard performed full military honors for Davis, who was being repatriated to his hometown of Goldsboro after being shot down over the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 1968. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittain Crolley)

Team Seymour helps repatriate remains of Goldsboro native

A hearse carrying the remains of Col. Edgar “Felton” Davis passes under the American flag, April 5, 2018, on the way to Seymour Funeral Home in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Davis, a RF-4C navigator, was shot down during the Vietnam War and is now being repatriated to his native town of Goldsboro. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittain Crolley)

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders of North Carolina stand with American flags and Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action flags to honor the repatriated remains of Col. Edgar “Felton” Davis, April 5, 2018, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders of North Carolina stand with American flags and Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action flags to honor the repatriated remains of Col. Edgar “Felton” Davis, April 5, 2018, in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Patriot Guard Riders of North Carolina were among those that escorted Davis and his family from Raleigh-Durham International Airport back to his hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shawna L. Keyes)

Team Seymour helps repatriate remains of Goldsboro native

Col. Christopher Sage, 4th Fighter Wing commander, presents a folded flag to Martha Morton, the daughter of Col. Edgar “Felton” Davis, during Davis’ memorial service, April 6, 2018, at Eastern Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Morton and her two brothers, who both currently serve in the U.S. Air Force, received flags in honor of their father. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittain Crolley)

Team Seymour helps repatriate remains of Goldsboro native

F-15E Strike Eagles from the 333rd Fighter Squadron perform a missing man formation during a flyover for the memorial service of Col. Edgar “Felton” Davis, April 6, 2018, at Eastern Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Goldsboro, North Carolina. After being shot down and declared missing in action, search and rescue efforts attempted to locate Davis or the aircraft wreckage, but to no avail. It wasn’t until 2015 that information led to the discovery of his remains. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittain Crolley)

Team Seymour helps repatriate remains of Goldsboro native

A 4th Fighter Wing commander's coin was placed on the casket of Col. Edgar "Felton" Davis after the internment ceremony April 6, 2018, at the Eastern Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Colonel Davis was a navigator aboard a RF-4C Phantom fighter-bomber aircraft, assigned to the 11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, that crashed during a night photo-reconnaissance mission over the Lao People's Democratic Republic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --

50 years.

It took Col. Edgar “Felton” Davis 50 years – and a little help along the way – to find his way home to Goldsboro, North Carolina, but he finally made it.

On Sept. 17, 1968, Davis took off aboard an RF-4C Phantom fighter-bomber aircraft on a photo-reconnaissance mission over the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Under the guise of night, Davis and his pilot attempted to gather information on an enemy location and give allied forces a critical advantage. However, the plane was spotted and shot down by anti-aircraft artillery. As the Phantom went down, the pilot safely ejected and was later rescued, but when no contact could be made with Davis, he was declared missing-in-action.

Subsequent search and rescue efforts attempted to look for Davis and the aircraft wreckage, to no avail. When efforts were called off, Davis was declared killed-in-action – one of more than 1,600 American service members who are unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

Until now.

Between August 2001 and February 2015, members of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency partnered with teams from L.P.D.R. to investigate the crash site six times that correlated with information they obtained about the downed aircraft. Personal effects and pieces of the wreckage were excavated, but analysis couldn’t determine if Davis was in the aircraft at the time of the crash.

It wasn’t until later in 2015 that there was a break in the case, when a Khammouan Province villager came forth with information about the burial location of a U.S. service member. The villager reported that, in 1968, his father came across the remains of a pilot and buried them near his house.

Analysis of the bone fragments matched with DNA from his family, as well as material and circumstantial evidence that fit with Davis’ loss. DPAA was determined that these remains belonged to the colonel and he was marked “accounted for” on Dec. 19, 2017.

On April 5, Col. Brian Armstrong, 4th Fighter Wing vice commander, had the privilege of escorting Davis’ remains from Hawaii back to Goldsboro.

“We, as a military and as a United States, never give up on our missing-in-action,” Armstrong said. “We’re always looking for them. It’s an absolute honor for me to bring someone home who’s been missing for almost 50 years and bring him home to his family.”

A hero’s welcome awaited Davis as his remains were flown into Raleigh-Durham Airport. Members of the 4th FW honor guard conducted a dignified transfer from the aircraft to the hearse and the next leg of his journey began.

Escorted by more than 130 motorcycles from the Patriot Guard Riders of North Carolina, the precession was greeted at every overpass between Raleigh and Goldsboro by members of local fire and police departments waving their hands and flags to welcome Davis home. As they turned onto Wayne Memorial Drive in Goldsboro, thousands of citizens lined the streets to pay tribute and respect to one of their own.

“We’re overwhelmed by what the community and Wayne County and Goldsboro and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base has done to honor our father,” said Davis’ second son, retired Col. Alan Davis. “There’s no doubt in our minds that his service is understood and appreciated in this community.

“The journey to bring our father home,” he continued, fighting back tears. “was long and with gaps, but [DPAA’s] work spanned years and we’d like to thank the individuals who never stopped looking and make this closure possible.”

After more than 50 years, Davis found himself back on U.S. soil, back in his hometown, and in his final resting place alongside his wife.

“This is a wonderful day,” said Davis’ daughter, Martha Morton. “It’s a sad day, but it’s a wonderful day. For our mom and our dad to be together, it’s beyond anything we could have hoped for.”

Col. Davis’ story is a success for those who continue the search for our nation’s missing-in-action, but their efforts will never rest until all are accounted for.

 

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