COLUMBIA CITY – 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 Praters 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.
Were 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.
Its because of people like my dad, who paid the ultimate price, that we can enjoy our freedom, he said. But its not just him. Its any soldier, in any war, in any country. The community support weve gotten today for this service is a reminder of that.