06.04.15

IN WAKE OF MEMORIAL DAY, SCHUMER BACKS WESTERN NY FAMILY’S PUSH TO GET SON’S NAME ON VIETNAM MEMORIAL WALL – TERRY LEE HENDERSON OF CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY DIED IN VIETNAM WAR TRAINING EXERCISE IN SOUTH CHINA SEA IN 1969, BUT BECAUSE ACCIDENT WAS OUTSIDE COMBAT ZONE, HE & 73 OTHER VETERANS WHO PERISHED WERE LEFT OFF NATIONAL MEMORIAL WALL

Terry Lee Henderson & 73 Other American Veterans Tragically Died When USS Frank E. Evans Collided With an Australian Aircraft Carrier in South China Sea in June 1969, But Because The Training Exercise Was Deemed “Not Directly Linked to War,” These 74 Names Were Not Recognized on Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Schumer Says These 74 Americans, Including Henderson, Bravely Served Their Country Inside & Outside The Combat Zone; Adding the Names of These Heroes to the Vietnam Memorial is the Proper Acknowledgement For Their Courage & Service 

Schumer: Engrave Terry Lee Henderson & 73 Other Vietnam Vets’ Names on National Memorial; They Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice for America and Deserve Memorial Honor

In wake of Memorial Day, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his push to have the names of 74 Americans enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. Schumer explained that these Americans bravely served their country during the Vietnam War and died tragically in a war-related training exercise in the South China Sea. Among those who perished was Terry Lee Henderson, who was born in Buffalo and whose family still lives in Chautauqua County. Schumer says they have been fighting for years to have the names of Terry and his fellow sailors engraved alongside the other Vietnam War dead.  

On June 3, 1969, the USS Frank E. Evans collided with an Australian aircraft carrier during a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea. Seventy-four American sailors were killed in the accident. However, because the tragedy took place outside of the official Vietnamese combat zone, the crew was deemed ineligible for inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Schumer says that these geographical lines should not supersede recognition when it comes to service. Therefore, Schumer has launched his push to have the names of these crewmembers, including Henderson, properly enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor their memory, bravery, and sacrifice.

“It is a mistake and an injustice that 74 veterans, including Terry Lee Henderson, bravely served their country in the Vietnam War and cannot be recognized on the national Vietnam Memorial Wall because of an overly strict and inflexible interpretation of a bureaucratic rule. These sailors served their country well, both inside and outside the combat zone, and the collision that caused these brave Americans to lose their lives should be considered directly linked to the war,” said Senator Schumer. “I am launching my push to have these crewmembers’ names enshrined on the memorial to give these veterans the honor they deserve. Next Memorial Day, we should be able to look at 74 additional names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in our nation’s capital.” 

Schumer said those aboard the USS Frank E. Evans were essential to the American military efforts in Vietnam, and their presence in the South China Sea was a directly linked to the war. By withholding their names from enshrinement, Schumer said the U.S. is denying the deceased crewmembers proper recognition for their bravery, sacrifice and noble service.

Schumer said he is supporting the ongoing efforts of Western New York residents Maryann (Henderson) Buettner and Randy Henderson, Terry Lee Henderson’s mother and brother, to have Terry’s name included in the national memorial, along with his fellow crewmen. Terry Lee Henderson, along with the 73 other crewmembers, tragically lost their lives while helping to advance American military efforts in Vietnam. Schumer said their combat-related service deserves acknowledgment upon the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. 

“When my son wrote me letters he wrote them from the war zone, on the gun line.  My heart has been broken for 46 years.  I am 87 years old and am hoping and praying to see my son’s name and those of his shipmates given the honor they deserve before I leave this world,” said Maryann (Henderson) Buettner, Mother of Terry Lee Henderson.

“It’s been almost half a century since my brother was lost at sea.  It's absurd that his name, along with the names of 73 of his fellow sailors aren't included alongside their comrades on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. When my brother left the United States in 1969 he went to fight the war in Vietnam.  That was the only reason his ship, USS Frank E. Evans was there; my brother and 73 others were serving in the Vietnam War.  They were awarded a service medal the day they died.  My brother, like so many others, never got to live out his hopes and dreams, or live up to his full potential.  He was an amazing guitar player.  He was my hero.  He served his country during a time of war, and like the others who perished on the USS Frank E. Evans, he deserves that recognition. I want to thank Senator Schumer for his activism.  I'm certainly very hopeful that with his help and the support of the Frank E. Evans families, my mother will soon be able to see my brother's name etched on that wall,” said Randy Henderson, Brother of Terry Lee Henderson.

Schumer said there were four additional crewmembers from NY who perished in the accident and whose actions also merit inclusion on the memorial. They include: James Franklin Bradly, born in New York, NY; Dennis Ralph Johnson, born in Tarrytown, NY; John Townsend Norton, born in Brooklyn, NY; and Larry Reilly Jr., whose father, Larry Reilly Sr. is a Syracuse, NY resident and a survivor of the USS Frank E. Evans collision.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the Department of Defense appears below:

Dear Secretary Mabus,

I am writing to recommend that the names of the seventy-four sailors lost aboard the USS Frank E. Evans on June 3, 1969 be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Those aboard were essential to the American military efforts in Vietnam, and their presence in the South China Sea was directly linked to the war. By withholding their names from enshrinement upon the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, we are denying the deceased crewmembers of the USS Frank E. Evans proper recognition for their brave and noble service.

Just a few days after it provided fire for ground troops in Vietnamese waters, the USS Frank E. Evans was cut in half after it collided with an Australian aircraft carrier during a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea. Seventy-four American sailors – all of which were likely to return to the conflict after the exercise – were killed in the wreckage. However, because the tragedy took place outside of the official Vietnamese combat zone, the crew was ineligible for inclusion on the Vietnamese Veterans Memorial.

For years, surviving crewmembers and relatives of the lost have struggled to understand why geographical lines supersede recognition of service. Their combat-related service deserves acknowledgment upon the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.   

I urge you to give full consideration to this request and if you have any further questions, please contact my staff.  

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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