Hundreds To Honor Navy Pilot Killed 33 Years Ago
August 18, 2005
By Keith Eldridge
Lt. Rog Lester died flying a combat mission in Vietnam in 1972, and now, 33 years later, his family can finally lay him to rest.
MORTON - Hundreds of people are flying in from all over the country for a memorial service this weekend to honor a Navy pilot killed in combat.
But it wasn't in Iraq. Lt. Rog Lester died flying a combat mission in Vietnam in 1972.
Now, 33 years later, his family can finally lay him to rest.
You can see the pride on their faces as Esther and Reg Lester look on the A-6 named for their son/brother.
"Brings back a lot of memories, huh mom?" Reg Lester, Rog's brother, said. His mother Esther answered: "33 years."
The Intruder at the Museum of Flight in Seattle is an exact match of Lt. Lester's A-6 that disappeared.
It was August 1972 when Attack Squadron 52 from Whidbey Island left the deck of the USS Kittyhawk, and came back two crewmembers short.
The 26-year-old Lester from the tiny town of Morton, and his bombardier-navigator Harry Mossman, disappeared in a flash of light on a bombing run over North Vietnam.
The war ended, and the years passed. But fellow crewmembers never forgot.
At their own expense, several of them traveled to Vietnam to help search the rugged terrain. The military search team, with the help of Vietnamese citizens, located what they believed was the crash site.
After months of searching, remains of the downed A-6 were found.
In a ceremony in Hawaii, the remains were brought back home. Mossman's remains were buried at the Tahoma National Cemetery. But DNA searchers couldn't find any matches for Lester; they just found his belongings.
The Lesters and fellow crewmembers are going ahead with a memorial for Rog on Saturday, 33 years to the day after he disappeared.
"It's a great gesture," Esther said. "This will end the searching I guess, but it will not change my thinking about it."
"I don't say this is total closure," Reg said. "There's a chance that maybe we'll find something someday with Rog. But, it's good for the family. This is going to be a tremendous undertaking in Morton."
The memorial is Saturday at the Morton Elementary school gym with a symbolic burial to follow. Rog was well known for flying his A-6 on training runs right through the town of Morton. The Navy is going to repeat that with a squadron fly-by.
I was up to Morton on Tuesday and on the way back saw a A-6 flying across HWY-12, and wondered what was up. Good to hear the family can get some closure.