An airman has been found dead at RAF Lakenheath in England.
The body of Airman 1st Class Camden Mello was discovered Friday morning after an intensive search that began the night before, said Col. Jason Camilletti, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, in a post on the wing’s Facebook page Friday afternoon.
Mello was an assistant crew chief with the 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, according to a 48th Wing news release in December 2020 that detailed some of his personal struggles on his first overseas deployment. The squadron maintains F-15 fighter aircraft.
“We first learned he was missing Thursday night and through last night and this morning we put an all-hands-on-deck approach to find our missing teammate,” Camilletti said in his message to the wing’s airmen. “This morning we found him dead, and we believe he took his own life.”
Mello, who was “inspired by his family’s military lineage,” left for Air Force Basic Military Training in late 2019, according to the 2020 news release.
“I’ve wanted to join the military since I was ten years old,” he said. “Both of my parents are Navy veterans, and each of my grandfathers served in the Army National Guard and Air Force, respectively.”
But the young airman struggled when he arrived in England.
“I lost my mother a week after my arrival at Royal Air Force Lakenheath,” Mello said in the release. “It was also the first time I had been separated from my wife since college.”
Facing a first deployment, separation from his wife, the loss of his mom and the additional burden of COVID restrictions, he struggled.
“I never would have foreseen what had happened to me,” Mello said. “I’ve had to rely on my core group of friends, and they’ve gone through hell and back with me.”
Camilletti offered his condolences to Mello’s wife, his father and family in Massachusetts and the airmen of the 448th AXMS. “Our arms are wrapped around you,” he said.
He also spoke directly to his airmen.
“I just want to say something about resiliency,” he said. “I know that word is overused, so let’s throw it out. Let’s talk about real life. Let’s talk about the challenges we all have.
“Let’s talk about the fact that two hours ago, I was bawling in my car over Camden’s loss,” he said. “This stuff is real, and we’re living overseas in the COVID era. When there’s two-thirds darkness, one-third day, and all the other life stressors. It’s natural to feel down sometimes. It’s a part of the process. Keep battling. My goodness, please keep battling.
“We love you so much. You mean so much to the world,” Camilletti. “And please, please do not make a permanent decision in a temporary situation. Alright? We’re all here for you. You have teammates all over this place. Please, alright? We love you.”
In a heart-rending message on Facebook, Mello’s wife, Lauren, promised to “be strong.”
“Hug your loved ones everyday,” she wrote, “and tell them how much you love them because you never know how much longer you have with them.”