Michigan woman on mission to get father's name added to Vietnam Memorial

Fifty-seven years ago, 93 U.S. Army Rangers were en route to Vietnam when they were killed aboard a flight.

Now one woman in Michigan is on a mission to get their names on the Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington D.C.

Thirty-six-year-old Sgt. Melvin Lewis Hatt from Lansing was one of 92 other U.S. Army Rangers, 11 crew members, and three South Vietnamese soldiers who were killed aboard Flying Tiger Line Flight 739/14.

The flight went down on March 16, 1962, en route to Saigon, Vietnam.

“They searched for seven days, air, land, sea, search and not as much as a seat cushion or a single piece of the aircraft was ever found,” said Donna Cornell.

There has been all kinds of speculation as to what happened to the plane as well as no official explanation from the military.

“We likely will never know,” Cornell said.

But what Cornell does know is that her father and the other soldiers who died deserve to be honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

“This is what the families deserve because for some of them it’s a sense of closure to be able to go to D.C. and see their loved one’s name on the wall,” Cornell said.

But Cornell’s personal journey, which started in 2000, hasn’t been easy.

She and the families have been fighting with the Department of Defense because the crew’s casualty status was listed as non-battle as opposed to “killed in action.”

The plane crashed outside the geographical boundaries of the war zone.

Their assignment wasn’t directly related or involved in the Vietnam crisis, which Cornell said is untrue.

“Our last letter that I have that he wrote home to my grandma and his brother was I’m leaving on a hurry-up, top-secret mission to Saigon, Vietnam,” Cornell said.

Cornell thinks it’s because it was such a mission, the Department of Defense is using the criteria as an excuse to exclude them from being honored so they can cover up what their mission really was about.

“Ultimately what it may take is a signature from President Trump to give these soldiers an exemption,” Cornell said. “President Regan did it, and President Bush did it.”

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would put their names on the wall.

It’s currently sitting with the committee on energy and natural resources.

Cornell said she’s afraid the bill will die there but she’ll write to every member of the committee to ask they move the bill forward.

Copyright 2019 WILX via CNN. All rights reserved.

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