UNION CITY, TN – March 4, 2019 – Fifty-one years since listed as Missing in Action in Vietnam—Lt. Richard Clive “Tito” Lannom finally returned home to Union City, Tennessee and his final resting place March 2.
Activities of the day included a morning unveiling of the updated monument on the grounds of Discovery Park of America that changed Lannom’s status to Killed in Action. After the unveiling, there was a visitation with Lannom’s widow Charlotte Shaw, nephews John and Ted Lannom and other family members. The memorial service reflected the naval commander’s love of country and faith, concluding with a time at the graveside with full military honors and a two-aircraft flyover.
The memorial service, held in Discovery Park of America’s Discovery Center, included presentations of proclamations by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the House and Senate of the Tennessee General Assembly. They were presented by Commissioner Courtney Rogers of the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services and Rep. Andy Holt.
Lannom’s change in status was acknowledged at the unveiling of the Vietnam Memorial in Discovery Park of America’s Military Garden. The monument now includes a bronze rosette similar to what is installed when statuses change on the national monument in D.C.
Throughout the day, the reminder came that, while the focus was on Lannom, there is a need to continue to hope for those soldiers who served and remain missing.
Since March 1, 1968, only two-and-a-half years after her marriage to “Tito,” she had lived with the unknown. That was the day Lannom’s heroic act of volunteering for a dangerous mission—off an aircraft carrier, at night, over mountains and with no communications—resulted in his death.
“He looked fear and death in the face,” she said of his willingness to step up when others had declined, “and honor won out.”
In late 2017, a Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Persons team excavated a crash site on Tra Ban Island. Shaw described the journey each day up steep limestone cliffs the search team endured to find Lannom. In Hawaii, DNA and evidence discovered at the crash site were used to officially identify his remains on Sept. 25, 2018.
“Today is bigger than one hero’s homecoming,” she reminded the standing room only audience that filled Discovery Park’s great hall and extended to fill each subsequent floor. “We are also here to remember those whose remains have not yet been found.”
The news of Lannom’s identification did not reach Shaw immediately. She had married Jackie Shaw and for 40 years their blended family had claimed Tito as an extended member. In remarks at the unveiling, Charlotte’s son Jason Brownlee said it was an August visit to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. last year and an etching he posted on social media that finally allowed for the connections to be made and Shaw to ultimately receive official word that Lannom’s status had changed to Killed in Action.
Jim Phelps, a member of Rolling Thunder, one of several veteran support organizations present and one that specifically advocates for Prisoners of War and MIAs, noted that since World War II, 82,000 service members have not returned home.
His group along with representatives of American Legion Riders, the Patriot Guard, Combat Veterans and the 1st Battalion Mechanized Company A formed a caravan of more than 100 motorcycles and law enforcement vehicles to escort Lannom and family to the East View Cemetery where the graveside service with full military honors was completed. Hundreds of other mourners lined the streets of the route.
# # #