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

Published: Aug. 16, 2019 at 3:37 PM EDT
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Fifty-seven years ago, 93 US Army Rangers were en route to Vietnam when they were killed aboard a flight.

One woman in mid-Michigan is on a mission to get their names added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

Donna Ellis Cornell of Haslett said the military and Department of Defense haven't told them exactly what the crews mission was which is part of the problem.

Staff Segreant Melvin Lewis Hatt, 36, from Lansing was one of 92 other US Army Rangers, 11 crew members and 3 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 7 days, air, land sea, search and not as much as a seat cushion or a single piece of the aircraft was ever found," Cornell said, Hatt's daughter.

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."

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

"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 ones name on the wall," she said.

Cornell's personal journey - which started since 2000- hasn't been easy.

She and the families have been fighting with the U.S. Department of Defense because the crews casualty status was listed as non-battle as opposed to 'killed in action.'

The plane crashed outside the geographical boundaries of the war zone and 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 thinks it's because it was such a mission that the DOD 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. President Reagan did it, and President Bush did it."

A bill was introduced in the Senate that would put the soldiers' names on the wall and it's currently sitting with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Cornell said that 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.

We've reached out to the DOD and the Army, but we haven't heard back.

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