CANON MELVIN L

CW3 Melvin "Mel" L. Canon was a VHPA member who died after his tour in Vietnam on 02/28/2024 at the age of 81.3
Warrenton, VA
Flight Class 67-7
Date of Birth 11/26/1942
Served in the U.S. Army
Served in Vietnam with B/227 AHB 1 CAV in 67-68, C/227 AHB 1 CAV in 67-68
Call sign in Vietnam MASHER 17
This information was provided by Obit

More detail on this person: Melvin Leon Canon JR, (aka, Masher, Flight Leader, Rotorwash) pulled pitch and ascended to his eternal home in the early morning hours of February 28, 2024. Mel is survived by his loving wife, Susan, of 26 years; Brothers: Allen (wife, Margaret) and David (wife, Wendy); Sisters: Kay (husband, Henry) and Denise; Daughters: Julie (husband, Patrick) and Kim (husband, Mark); Sons: Shawn, Jordan, and Lance (wife, Shannon) and grandchildren: Kaitlyn, Sophia, Christian (mother, Kim Frisbee), and Lux.

Son of Ethel Lee Ryan and Melvin Leon Canon of Shreveport, LA, Mel spent his humble childhood in Louisiana, Texas, and California. Just prior to his 18th birthday, Mel enlisted in the US Army. After 5 years working as a communications specialist, he applied for and was selected to attend the Army's Helicopter Flight Training Program, graduating as a pilot and Warrant Officer. He was immediately deployed to Vietnam where he excelled as both a UH-1 helicopter pilot and Instructor Pilot serving with the 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division. This Battalion became the most highly decorated aviation unit in the entire Vietnam War.

One particular mission in which Mel played a critical role involved the rescue of an Army helicopter crew that was shot down near the city of Hue during a siege by the North Vietnam Army in 1968. A scene of intense fighting, Mel flew as wing man for Fred Furguson who was piloting the lead ship. Mel's aircraft received numerous hits, but his superb flying skills and dedication for mission accomplishment earned him one of his Distinguished Flying Cross awards. Fred Furguson became the Army Aviation's first recipient of the Medal of Honor for his role in this mission.

Mel's courage and skill as a soldier and pilot were repeatedly acknowledged during his nine years of active duty and almost 24 years of Army Reserve service, receiving the following service medals, decorations, and badges:

Distinguished Flying Cross with One Oak Leaf Cluster
Bronze Star
Air Medal with 25 Numeral
Army Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Silver Star
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Army Sharpshooter Badges for the Rifle and .45 Pistol
Army M-14 Expert badge
Overseas Service Bar (2 Awards)

In 1970, Mel left active duty and transitioned to serving in the Army Reserve as he began his adult civilian life. Over the next nearly five decades, Mel built an impressive array of employment positions throughout the aviation, fire management, and IT professions such as:

CEO and owner of a commercial helicopter company
Owner of an aircraft painting business
Commercial helicopter pilot
Law enforcement officer
Nuclear security officer
Owner/Technician/Sales building and selling networks and workstations
Computer technician
Computer desktop support specialist
Computer Network administrator
Computer Help Desk Analyst and finally,
Homeschool Teacher

An avid writer, Mel had aspirations of publishing a collection of his favorite stories and anecdotes from his Army escapades in Thailand and Vietnam and his civilian helicopter jobs flying fire service contracts, transporting oil workers to and from floating rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and flying wealthy clients to and from mountain top picnics. Although he did not realize this dream of publishing his own book, several of his stories are included in Missions of Fire and Mercy (amzn.to/48FzCBZ) and Chopper Heroes: Have Guns Will Travel (amzn.to/432UrpI), both by William E. Peterson.

One of Mel's greatest acts of service to his fellow veterans was the creation of the Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network (VHFCN.org). The VHFCN is a non profit veterans organization for aircrew members who served in Vietnam during the period 1961-75, including hundreds of helicopter pilots, crew chiefs, and gunners from around the world. This network actually played a pivotal role in bringing Mel and his wife, Susan, together.

Mel rarely missed the opportunity to share stories drawn from his travels and experiences around the world. A favorite and frequently recited story was an incident that took place at a non-descript airport somewhere in the US.

Mel was preparing to depart from a small airport one day, when he checked in with the local Fixed Base Operations (FBO) office. The FBO appeared to be empty, so he busied himself with other preflight tasks while waiting for someone to appear.

Suddenly, he heard a disembodied voice say,

"Did you File Your Flight Plan?"

He turned around and saw no one so he thought his imagination was playing tricks on him.

A few minutes later, he heard the same query again, coming from somewhere behind the desk.

Peering behind desk in search of the source of this question, he saw a small cage.

In the cage was a Mynah bird.

That silly bird had heard that question so many times, he repeated it whenever someone entered the office!

Mel would be first to acknowledge that he was not a perfect man, husband or father. But without exception, anyone who took the time to get to know Mel soon understood he had a heart the size of the Grand Canyon. He was generous to a fault, loyal to his convictions and loved his family and friends fiercely.

Like so many other Vietnam Veterans, Mel's combat operations and exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange, caused multiple long-term ailments and physical challenges including PTSD, diabetes, vascular disease, amputation, and more. While we grieve losing him to the ravages of disease, we can rejoice that he did, in fact, file his eternal flight plan. He knew that this earthly life was not the end and he placed his faith in Jesus Christ, accepting that Jesus paid a debt He did not owe to pay a debt Mel could never pay.

Mel wasn't a "preachy" kinda guy. But he would want all who read this to be given the opportunity to take a moment and think about their answer to the question,

Respecting Mel's wishes to forego a funeral or memorial service, the family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to one of the following charities in acknowledgment of their incredible support to him and his family:

Disabled American Veterans https://www.dav.org

Drivers Rehab Center of Excellence https://www.driverrehabcenter.com

Semper Fi & America's Fund https://thefund.org

Help Our Military Heroes https://www.helpourmilitaryheroes.org

Alternatively, if you would like to contribute via direct link, you may do so by scrolling past the Obituary & Events, and looking under Memorial Contributions.

This information was last updated 03/04/2024

Please send additions or corrections to: HQ@vhpa.org VHPA Headquarters

Return to the Helicopter Pilot DAT name list

Return to VHPA web site

Date posted on this site: 03/10/2024


Copyright © 1998 - 2024 Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association