Fran Townsend was born on April 24, 1948, in Bristow, Oklahoma, and grew up in Rusk, Texas. He graduated Valedictorian of Rusk High School on May 27, 1966, and entered the United States Air Force Academy on June 27, 1966. Townsend was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force on June 3, 1970, and then attended Undergraduate Navigator Training at Mather AFB, California, from August 1970 to May 1971. His first assignment was as an RF-4C Phantom II Weapons System Operator with the 18th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, from June 1971 to January 1972, and then deployed with the 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from January 1972 until he was killed in action during ejection from his stricken aircraft over North Vietnam on August 13, 1972. Lt Townsend was officially listed as Missing In Action and was promoted to Captain before being declared Killed in Action on August 1, 1979. His remains were returned to the United States on July 13, 1999, and were positively identified on June 13, 2002. Francis Townsend was buried on December 2, 2002.
Epitaph For A Hero
If I should perish overseas
In service to my Land
I shall have died a noble death--
Let none misunderstand.
I hope my body will be found,
Returned back to my home,
Where it was nourished and inspired--
No more to yearn, or roam.
Home is the soldier then from the war
Back to his family;
Home is the patriot at last,
Buried in majesty.
Pause, visitor, and cast a glance,
Upon a hero's grave;
Be thankful to breathe Freedom's air,
For which his life he gave.