SCHUMER ANNOUNCES, FOLLOWING HIS PUSH, TOP-LEVEL DEPT. OF DEFENSE OFFICIALS AGREE TO REVIEW THE USS FRANK E. EVANS VICTIMS’ APPEAL; DOD SHOULD ETCH NAME OF SON OF WESTERN NY FAMILY ON VIETNAM MEMORIAL WALL – TERRY LEE HENDERSON OF CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY DIED ABOARD THE EVANS IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA IN 1969, BUT BECAUSE ACCIDENT WAS RULED OUTSIDE COMBAT ZONE, HE & 73 OTHER SERVICEMEN WHO PERISHED WERE LEFT OFF NATIONAL MEMORIAL WALL
In February, Schumer Elevated His Call To Sec. of Defense Ash Carter; 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 Unjustly 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 and Sacrifice
Schumer to DOD: Terry Lee Henderson & 73 Other Vietnam Vets Paid the Ultimate Sacrifice for America – These Heroes Should Be Honored on Vietnam Memorial Wall
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that, following his push, top-level officials at the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) have agreed to review the appeal that would have the names of 74 Americans enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. Schumer explained that these 74 Americans bravely served their country during the Vietnam War and died tragically in a war-related 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 said they have been fighting for years to have the names of Terry and his fellow sailors engraved alongside the other Veterans who served valiantly and perished during the Vietnam War. Schumer first launched his effort in June 2015 when he called on Secretary Mabus of the U.S. Navy to give the deceased crew members of the USS Frank E. Evans the proper recognition for their brave and noble service. Following a favorable reply from Secretary Mabus, last February Schumer elevated this call and urged Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to look at the case, citing that he is the top DOD official to make the final decision.
“For more than four decades, surviving crewmembers and relatives of those lost on the USS Frank E. Evans have struggled to understand why geographical lines have superseded these sailors’ sacrifice and service. Getting the Department of Defense to agree to review this appeal – which would add the names of these 74 veterans, including Terry Lee Henderson, to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – is a critical step towards justice for these families. With Memorial Day just a few weeks away, it is unthinkable that we are still denying individuals who bravely served this country and paid the ultimate sacrifice the proper recognition they deserve,” said Schumer. “I am going to continue fighting tooth and nail to have these crewmembers’ names enshrined on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in our nation’s capital to give these veterans the honor they deserve.”
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. Those sailors, however, were denied inclusion on the memorial wall based on the geographic location of the accident. Schumer said that these geographical lines should not be a barrier to recognition when it comes to service. 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. Therefore, Schumer is pushing to have the names of these crew members, including Henderson, properly enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor their memory, bravery, and sacrifice.
Schumer also said he will continue to support 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.
“I've said it many times, my brother is my hero. I think when the Department of Defense reviews the facts of this case, they'll find sufficient evidence to include my brother and his 73 fellow sailors on the Memorial. Senator Schumer and his office have been in regular contact with us and I'd like to thank him for his work that means so much to so many families,” said Randy Henderson.
Schumer said there were four additional crewmembers from NY who perished in the accident as well, 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 original letter to the Department of Defense appears below:
Dear Secretary Carter,
I write to request that the names of the 74 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 I strongly agree with the Department of the Navy that their presence in the South China Sea was directly linked to the war. By withholding their names from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, we are denying the deceased crewmembers of the USS Frank E. Evans the proper recognition for their brave and noble service.
Just a few days after providing main and support fire for ground troops on the gun line 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 China South Sea. Seventy- four American sailors – all of whom were likely to return to conflict after the exercise – were killed. However, as this tragedy took place outside of the official Vietnamese combat zone, this valiant crew was ineligible for inclusion on the Vietnam Veteran Memorial.
As a staunch supporter of this case, I submitted a letter to Secretary Mabus in early 2015, requesting a review of the Evans memorial decision. In a letter dated June 10, 2015, the Department of the Navy declared its support of the recommendation to add the 74 Sailors who were lost aboard the USS Frank E. Evans to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Navy acknowledged that the Evans was outside of the combat zone and participating in a training exercise, and also recognized this tragedy could be an exception to the established criteria, a conclusion that I fully concur with.
Since 1969, surviving crewmembers and relatives of the lost have struggled to understand why geographical lines supersede recognition of service. On two other notable occasions, exceptions have been made for Vietnam Veterans who were neither directly involved in combat, nor in close proximity of enemy lines. These exceptions resulted in those specified veterans’ names being inscribed on the Memorial Wall. The combat-related service of these 74 lost Sailors deserves acknowledgement on that same Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I urge you to give full consideration to this request.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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