Mich. woman fights to get her father's name on Vietnam Memorial Wall

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LANSING, Mich. (WILX/Gray News) - Fifty-seven years ago, 93 U.S. Army Rangers were on their way to Vietnam when their flight disappeared, and all aboard died.

A Michigan woman, who’s the daughter of one of the men, is now on a mission to get their names added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

Her dad, Staff Sgt. Melvin Lewis Hatt, 36, was one of the Rangers, 11 crew members and 3 south Vietnamese soldiers who were killed when Flying Tiger Line Flight 739/14 disappeared on March 16, 1962.

"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," Donna Ellis Cornell said.

Speculation surrounds the plane’s disappearance and the military’s provided no official explanation.

Cornell, who’s been fighting with the U.S. Department of Defense since 2000, said it's likely they'll never know.

Still, she said, her father and the other soldiers should 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 one’s name on the wall," she said.

The military may be balking because the plane crashed outside the geographical boundaries of the war zone, meaning the crew didn’t officially die in the war effort.

Cornell said that’s not true.

"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 the Department of Defense is using the criteria as an excuse to cover up what the crew's mission was.

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

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

Cornell said that she's afraid the bill will die in committee but will continue to push for them to move the bill forward.

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