WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Few American families have the same story of military service as the Litten brothers. Each of seven brothers served in the United States Air Force, amassing 137 years of service between them. Three of the brothers unveiled a memorial bench Tuesday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, commemorating the family’s service in the museum’s Memorial Park.
Larry and Gerry, who are Fairborn residents, connected with Kim McCarthy, former candidate for Ohio State Representative in the 73rd district, in an effort to tell their story. McCarthy connected the brothers with Air Force veteran Katie Bradshaw, who took an interest in them and conducted video interviews about their service while studying at Wright State University. Those interviews are part of the Veteran Voices Project.
“If you’ve spent any time with the Litten brothers, you’ll know they didn’t join the Air Force for gratitude,” Bradshaw said. “They were raised to work hard and to make their parents proud. They have certainly exceeded at this.”
Six of the seven brothers retired with 20 years of service or more, between the years of 1951 and 1989. John, Ken, and Art have died and are survived by Larry, Gerry, Steve, and David. Larry, Gerry, and Steve were present at the ceremony Tuesday morning.
Growing up in a family of 11 children in Flushing, Ohio, the small town did not present many career opportunities at the time, according to the brothers’ GoFundMe page. The military gave them an opportunity to do something meaningful in service to their country, while financially supporting their mother and father. Each of them followed in the footsteps of their eldest brother, John, in enlisting in the Air Force. Larry, Gerry, and their brother Ken all enlisted on the same day.
“This would never have happened but for oldest brother John,” Steve Litten said. “He was the greatest guy you could have ever come across and we miss him.”
Gerry Litten said he believes his family has second longest combined period of service among siblings in United States history, beaten only by an Alabama family with combined 156 years of Air Force service. There is no official listing for the distinction.
The brothers have been working for 20 years to properly memorialize their siblings and make their contributions known.
“Our family appreciates this,” Gerry Litten said during the ceremony. “We really appreciate everyone that made this happen.”
Col. (Ret.) Jim Blackman of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force made mention during the ceremony of the planes, spanning several eras, that rest inside the musuem.
“Those craft are not the Air Force. Our airmen are the Air Force. The Litten brothers are our Air Force,” he said.
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.