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Memphis Belle Gunner, 94, Completes Final Mission

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    Memphis Belle Gunner, 94, Completes Final Mission

    An American veteran was visiting the sights where he served in England during the Second World War on May 6 when he suddenly collapsed and died.
    The trip was especially meaningful for 94-year-old Melvin Rector, since it marked the first time he had returned to England in the 71 years since the war's end.
    While he died before getting to revisit RAF Snetterton Heath, where he was stationed during the war, his loved ones say he passed while fulfilling a dream, in a place that occupied so much of his personal history.
    'He couldn't have asked for a better way to go,' his daughter, Sandy Vavruich, told Florida Today. 'It was quick and painless. He had just gotten to see two planes and he passed away between them.'

    One of the planes that Rector served on was the famed Memphis Belle. Above, actor Matthew Modine stands in front of a replica of the plane in the 1990 film Memphis Belle

    While Vavruich didn't accompany her father on the dream trip, he was not alone when he died.

    Friend Susan Jowers, 60, accompanied Rector on the trip. The two met five years ago when Jowers was assigned to be Rector's guardian on an Honor Flight to Washington, DC. Honor flights are paid trips for military veterans to visit the nation's capital so that they can see the monuments in their honor.

    Jowers was on the trip as a representative of her father, who also served during World War II but died when she was young. She bonded with Rector on the trip and he considered her like an adopted daughter after that.

    Jowers told Florida Today that Rector died shortly after exiting the underground bunker in Uxbridge, just outside of London, that was used as a command center during the Battle of Britain.

    She says Rector grabbed her arm and said that he was dizzy, and then collapsed on the ground.

    • On the flight to the UK, the pilot of the American Airlines flight invited Rector up to the cockpit

      'He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done,' Jowers said.'He completed his final mission.'

      Following Rector's death, a small funeral service was planned in England, until his body could be repatriated to the U.S.

      Jowers and Rector's family only expected three or four people at the London service, but once the funeral director heard about Rector's back story, he made sure that the ceremony honored his service.

      'They just wanted something simple, and when I found out a little background about Melvin, there is just no way that we were just going to give him a simple service,' funeral director Neil Sherry told British ITV Network. 'We wanted it to be as special as possible.'

      The family was surprised when American Air Force servicemen, stationed in England, and members of the British Royal Air Force showed up to the funeral, and bid Rector adieu with full military honors.

      Vavruich says she was humbled by the display her father received abroad.

      'You go to a foreign country and the have the love and honor a veteran. It was so nice that he had those to participate in his service,' she said.

      'He certainly got a beautiful send-off,' Jowers added. 'People everywhere, from Cambridge to London heard his story.'

      Rector's remains were repatriated to the U.S. on Tuesday and a funeral is planned for the father-of-six on June 9 at First Baptist Church of Barefoot Bay, Florida.
    Melvin Rector, 94, arrived in the UK on May 6 to visit the base where he served during World War II. He died on his first day of the trip, while visiting the Battle of Britain bunker in Uxbridge.

    RIP WARRIOR! If it wasn't for guys like him all of Europe would be speaking German!!!


      Rest in Peace Melvin Rector...God Bless.


        Becouse of you and the many others we have our freedom. ..God bless in peace soldier. ...


          RIP, one of the best generations to grace our country!


            RIP Sir
            SHADAP VARMINT!


              RIP. Thank you for your service.


                RIP and Thank you for your service. God Bless.

                Also tipping my hat to the funeral home in England for doing the right thing.


                  RIP true heroes
                  let's make america great again


                    R.I.P. Sir, You certainly have earned it.


                      R.I.P. Thank you for your fight for our freedom. I pray we don't let you down.
                      Exercise the Bill of Rights. It's good for your Constitution.


                        Thank you Sir

                        May you rest in peace.