New efforts could bring remains of missing Vietnam pilot home to Fort Thomas

Air Force pilot missing 50 years

FORT THOMAS, KY (FOX19) - Fifty years after an Air Force pilot was shot down in Vietnam, he is still MIA, or missing in action. But now, the military man's brother has reason to believe the war hero will be returned home some day soon.

Though five decades have come and gone, veteran Stephen Ross still remembers the day his brother disappeared vividly. At the time, Stephen Ross was a 21-year-old aircraft mechanic, working alongside his 25-year-old brother, Capt. Joseph Shaw Ross, an Air Force pilot. They were both serving the U.S. in Vietnam.

"It's 50 years later, but it seems like it was yesterday," said Stephen Ross. "Two colonels came out to the aircraft, got me off the aircraft, and told me my brother was shot down."

His brother had left on a mission and never came back.

"It's really tough," he said. "When I first got back from Vietnam, I was a wreck."

Stephen Ross says his brother achieved great things before he was declared missing in action. A full-time jokester and part-time athlete, Joseph Ross was a track and field and football star at Highlands High School, where he's now featured in the sports Hall of Fame. His athleticism continued to shine in the Air Force Academy, and he fought hard as a fighter pilot. When it came to big brother duties, Stephen Ross says he took them all seriously.

"There's not a day that goes by I don't think of my brother. My brother was my hero," he said.

Despite the gaping hole in his heart, Stephen Ross has learned to live life without his best friend. Tributes, like a 471 bridge named after his brother, make it a little bit easier. Still, though it's been years since he's donned his uniform, Stephen Ross is on a mission. He wants his brother returned home.

"The Air Force has my DNA, and I hope someday they find some remains of my brother, so I can put it to rest," he said.

At the time, it wasn't safe for search crews to return to the site because air crafts were being shot down left and right. A half-century later, there is now a new lead -- a new reason to have hope.

"I just received a letter from the casualty department saying a gentleman wants to help me," said Stephen Ross.

A California lawyer who graduated from the Air Force Academy with Joseph Ross, is offering to help pressure the Air Force to focus in on finding the long lost hero.

"I pray for that every day, so we can hope," Stephen Ross said.

In November, the Rolling Thunder is honoring those missing in action by saving three seats at the University of Kentucky vs. Georgia game for three missing military members. One of which, Stephen Ross said, will be for his brother.

He hopes to attend the game with his son, who shares his brother's name.

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