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Air Force honors senator's fallen brother

Air Force honors senator's fallen brother
© (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)
Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchNew Congress, same issues for Puerto Rico Internet gambling addiction is a looming crisis Trump runs into GOP opposition with NAFTA threat MORE (R-Utah), now 81, was just eight years old when his brother was killed in World War II. However, it left a lasting mark on the rest of his life. 
 
His brother, 20-year-old Jesse, was an Army corporal serving as a nose turret gunner when his B-24 bomber went down over Austria. 
 
Just weeks after his family received word, a streak in young Hatch's hair turned completely white, and stayed that way until all of it turned white many years later. 
 
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Jesse was first reported missing in action. "My mother believed that he would come back," Hatch said. The family would receive confirmation two years later.  
 
Although that fateful day — Feb. 7, 1945 — was more than seven decades ago, Jesse Morlan Hatch left a legacy behind.
 
It was that legacy that was honored at a Pentagon ceremony Friday, where Air Force Secretary Deborah James presented Hatch and his surviving sisters Frances and Jessica with shadow boxes honoring Jesse's service. 
 
Within one shadow box was a picture of Cpl. Hatch and his nine other fallen crew from the 15th Air Force, 451st Bombardment Group, then based out of Castellucio Airfield, Italy. 
 
"Men of this unit were ordinary men. They were ordinary airmen, but they rose to extraordinary heights 70 years ago," said James.
 
James said the men dropped over 300,000 tons of bombs on enemy targets in nine countries in Europe, flew 149,000 heavy bomber sorties and almost 88,000 fighter sorties, and repatriated more than 5,600 downed airmen who were shot down in enemy territory. 
 
Jesse and his crew were on their 186th mission when they perished. Their mission was to destroy the Korneuburg Oil Refinery in Austria.
 
During the mission, enemy fire struck their wingman in the bomb bay, igniting its munitions and causing it to collide with their bomber. 
 
The 451st lost seven aircraft and 63 men that day.
 
Hatch, who spoke at the ceremony, said his parents never got over his brother's death. 
 
"I'm very emotional right now, and I don't want to break down and cry in front of all of you, although I'm just about there," he said. 
 
Hatch credited his brother for his own life in public service. 
 
Hatch said he would have been drafted to fight in the Korean War. But as the sole remaining heir of the family name, he instead served on a two-year mission for his Mormon church. 
 
"All I can say is my brother died, and I was able to go on the mission. And I worked harder than anybody on that mission, everyday of that mission, to fulfill two missions. One for my brother, and one for me," he said, with his voice breaking. 
 
"And that was the basis of my being able to go to law school, all the way up to becoming a U.S. senator, now president pro tempore of the Senate,” he said. 
 
Hatch said he had great respect for the military and the sacrifice its members and families face. 
 
Hatch said his sister Frances's husband was a top sergeant in the Marine Corps who served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and his other sister Jessica's husband was killed in Vietnam. 
 
"I can't begin to tell you how indebted we are toward you folks in the military, who have sacrificed so much, and will sacrifice so much for our country," he said.
 
He pledged that as a senator, he would continue doing everything he could to support the military. 
 
”There’ll never be anything that the military needs where I'm not going to be there," he said. Plus, he said with a chuckle, "I have to be there to keep [Sen. John McCain] straight and level." 
 
"We love John McCain and others who have served as well," he added. 
 
About a hundred people, including dozens of family members, attended the ceremony, which took place in the Air Force’s art gallery at the Pentagon. 
 
During the ceremony, Hatch and his sisters were presented with the two shadow boxes and a folded American flag. 
 
“No words and no commemorative items, no matter how beautiful and special they made be, can ever soothe the pain of losing a brother,” James said. “But we also know that his sacrifice was absolutely not in vain.”
 
Today, she said, the 451st Expeditionary Group is based at Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan.
 
Hatch’s granddaughter Stephanie Leishman, who traveled from Boston for the ceremony, said it had meant a lot to their family.
 
"The ceremony was beautiful. ... It clearly meant a lot to my grandfather," she said. 
 
Hatch said, “It means everything to me. He was a really wonderful young man, everybody loved him.”  
 
”I still remember him," he said. "I actually felt maybe his spirit was here with us."