Brothers in arms: Memorial bench dedicated at Air Force museum

  • Published
  • By Darrius Parker
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – On July 20, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force hosted a dedication ceremony for a family that provided over a century of military service.

Seven Litten brothers, who served a total of 137 years in the Air Force, were honored with a memorial bench so their legacy can be remembered for generations to come. 

Katie Bradshaw, a Master of Social Work student at Wright State University, was introduced to the Litten family in hopes of highlighting their story. From the beginning, she believed it needed to be told.

“At the time I met the Litten family, I was working with the WSU Veterans Voices Project at the WSU Veteran and Military Center as a veteran student job,” she said. “It is a very detailed process; getting to this point has been over a year of collecting information and documents that had to be authenticated and approved by military staff in St. Louis.

“The bench material was then ordered from overseas, and was completed by Dodds Memorials.”

Throughout her interactions with the Litten family, Bradshaw said she was constantly amazed by the account most people probably did not even know about.

 “Going into the interview with the Litten family, I knew it was a unique and impressive story, but as the interview was conducted, I felt strongly that formal recognition was in order,” she said.

The Litten family consisted of 13 members. Carl and Elizabeth raised four daughters (Vivian, Phyllis, Sandra and Kathy) and seven sons (John, Dave, Larry, Ken, Jerry, Art and Steve). What was so unique about this family is that all the sons would go on to serve.

“From the time my oldest brother, John, enlisted in 1951 and I retired in 1989, there were 38 years of continuous service in the Air Force by my brothers and myself,” said Steve Litten, a retired master sergeant. “Adding up each of our individual times in the Air Force came to 137 years.”

Retired Tech. Sgt. Larry Litten elaborated on how the family’s story first received attention.

“It got started when I met a gentleman named Rick Perales at a Veterans Day gathering at a veterans meeting in Fairborn,” he said. “He responded and guided me to the Veterans Voices Project at Wright State University.”

It was there he met Bradshaw, who began seeking formal recognition for the family.

“She has done a super job of it, along with Kim McCarthy, who ran the fundraiser that funded the project,” Larry added.

Even though 137 years of military service for a single family is unique and extensive, the total lineage could have actually been more.

“Although my dad wanted to enlist, he was not eligible to enlist during World War II because he was the father of seven children with one on the way when the war began,” recalls Jerry Litten, also a retired master sergeant. 

Steve, Larry and Jerry are now the only surviving Litten brothers. Each highly praised the hard work and dedication by their mother and father, as well as the support and encouragement that came from their sisters when all of them joined the Air Force.

The opportunity to wear the uniform alongside family and being remembered through this ceremonial dedication is special, the brothers said, each one adding how honored and proud they were to serve the Air Force, as well as this country.

“Little did I know that 54 years ago when I enlisted in the Air Force, there would be a bench dedicated to my brothers and me for our long military service,” Steve said. “What makes me smile most is that the bench will be there long after I am gone for our great-grandchildren to see.”