Haslett woman on mission to get father’s name on Washington D.C. memorial

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Nearly 59 years ago, an aircraft chartered by the U.S. Military called the Flying Tiger Line was on its way to Vietnam.

But a tragedy happened, and the plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean.

A family member of a veteran onboard has been working the last 25 years to help her father’s name continue to be remembered.

What exactly happened during this flight and the aircraft’s mission is still a mystery.

There were 93 U.S. soldiers on board and 11 crew members.

To this day, family members of those on the plane are working to get those who died their proper respect.

“He was 36-years-old when he was killed when the plane crashed,” said Donna Ellis Cornell.

Ellis Cornell lives in Haslett and was only 5-years-old the last time she saw her father Sergeant Melvin Lewis Hatt in 1962.

“What it boiled down to is they were on a secret mission, it was top secret, classified,” Cornell said.

Hatt was an army ranger who had training in jungle warfare and communications.

Cornell says the men are not considered casualties of war despite them heading to Vietnam.

That’s why Hatt’s name is not on the Vietnam memorial wall in Washington D.C.

Cornell’s been trying to change that for nearly 25 years.

“Each time we feel like we’ve gotten closer to proving that they should be on the wall there’s another roadblock in its place,” said Cornell.

Senator Gary Peters is trying to change that. He reintroduced a bill this year called the Flying Tiger Flight 739 act to help get service members on that flight remembered on the wall in D.C.

“I was a little surprised that he reintroduced it, I’m happy that he reintroduced it, “said Cornell.

Senator Peters issued this statement to 6 News: “Our brave men and women were deployed thousands of miles away from home during the Vietnam War. Many made the ultimate sacrifice in their service to our nation – including those aboard Flying Tiger Line Flight 739. It is past time that we properly honor those lost. That’s why I will continue to work with my colleagues and the families of those lives lost on ways we can honor the service members killed in the Flying Tiger crash.”

The bill hasn’t passed yet, but Cornell says she has hope.

“Along with all the other families it would mean an awful lot, it would bring closure just because we’d know that they’re not forgotten,” she said.

Cornell says her father was born in Lansing and started his military career in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

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