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The service and burial at Blue River Cemetery provided closure for both Prater’s family and the more than 100 veterans who attended, son Dennis Prater said.

Farewell to Dad, at last

Vietnam-era airman home after 38 years

Veterans, friends and family watch a video tribute to Prater at the funeral home. Prater’s aircraft was shot down over South Vietnam during a rescue mission in 1972.
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders escort the remains of Vietnam veteran Tech. Sgt. Roy Prater to the committal service.
Photos by Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Photos, books and sketches were displayed during the visitation at Smith & Sons Funeral Home in Columbia City.
Photos by Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
The leader of an honor guard from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton oversees the folding of the flag Saturday at the committal service for Tech. Sgt. Roy Prater.
A portrait of Prater stands on an easel near the flag-covered casket during visitation at Smith & Son Funeral Home in Columbia City.
Dennis Prater, right, son of Roy Prater, sits with his sister Deb Vance and her husband, Bill, at Blue River Cemetery.

– After 38 years, Tech. Sgt. Roy DeWitt Prater was finally laid to rest Saturday during an emotional graveside service in Columbia City.

Prater, whose helicopter was shot down in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, was listed as missing in action for 25 years. In 1997, the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office positively identified Prater’s remains. His funeral provided closure for both his family and the more than 100 veterans who attended, son Dennis Prater said.

“It was an emotional day for everyone, not just me,” Prater said. “It was important to the vets that they be here to welcome him home.”

More than 500 people arrived during visitation hours at Smith & Sons Funeral Home in Columbia City, many of them veterans of the Vietnam War. The funeral was an opportunity to show the kind of respect they were not given when they returned home in the 1960s and ’70s, Prater said.

“We’re two generations away from Vietnam now,” he said. “But I talked with many servicemen today that said they were glad the country was being patriotic again and honoring their soldiers.”

The funeral procession to Blue River Cemetery included 100 Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles, several of whom cried during the full-military-honors funeral provided by the Air Force. More than 100 American flags were visible from the gravesite.

For Prater, seeing these patriotic symbols reinforced everything his dad – and servicemen and women like him – stood for, he said.

“It’s because of people like my dad, who paid the ultimate price, that we can enjoy our freedom,” he said. “But it’s not just him. It’s any soldier, in any war, in any country. The community support we’ve gotten today for this service is a reminder of that.”