05.25.16

SCHUMER INTRODUCES AMENDMENT TO NATIONAL DEFENSE BILL REQUIRING DOD TO ETCH NAMES OF SOLDIERS WHO PERISHED ON THE USS FRANK E. EVANS – INCLUDING SON OF WESTERN NY FAMILY, TERRY LEE HENDERSON – ON VIETNAM MEMORIAL WALL; 74 SERVICEMEN DIED IN VIETNAM WAR TRAINING EXERCISE IN SOUTH CHINA SEA IN 1969, BUT BECAUSE ACCIDENT WAS RULED OUTSIDE COMBAT ZONE, THEY 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 Unjustly Deemed “Not Directly Linked to War,” These 74 Names Were Not Recognized on Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Schumer Introduces Amendment Requiring DOD to Enshrine These Names Onto The Wall As A Part Of The National Defense Bill; Senator Says Adding Names of These Heroes to the Vietnam Memorial is the Proper Acknowledgement For Their Courage, Service and Sacrifice

Schumer: Terry Lee Henderson & 73 Other Vietnam Vets Paid the Ultimate Sacrifice for America & Deserve to be Honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that he is introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to enshrine the names of 74 Americans 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 veterans who served valiantly and perished during the Vietnam War.

“By withholding the names of these 74 veterans, including Terry Lee Henderson of Western New York, from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, we are continuing to deny individuals who bravely served this country and paid the ultimate sacrifice the proper recognition they deserve. That’s why I am introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill requiring the Department of Defense to enshrine the names of these service members on the National Vietnam Memorial Wall for all the world to see,” said Senator Schumer. “Memorial Day is just a few days away – and I won’t stop until the families of these 74 crewmembers can visit our nation’s capital and pay tribute to their loved ones and heroes.”

Schumer first launched his effort in June 2015 when he called on Secretary Mabus of the U.S. Navy to give the deceased crewmembers of the USS Frank E. Evans the proper recognition for their brave and noble service. In February, Schumer elevated his call to Secretary Carter, citing that the top DOD official could be the one to make the final decision. Today, Schumer introduced an amendment as a part of the NDAA to ensure these Sailors receive their rightful honor on the wall.

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 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 directly linked to the war. Therefore, Schumer is pushing to have the names of these crewmembers, including Henderson, properly enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor their memory, bravery, and sacrifice.

“Senator Schumer won't give up. It's clear to me that he is committed to this and it means a lot that these 74 sailors have such a powerful advocate in Washington,” said Randy Henderson, Brother of Terry Lee Henderson. “We've been fighting for decades to give my brother and his shipmates the dignity of a place on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.  The facts of the case are irrefutable. They merit inclusion.”

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. In June 2015 he urged Navy Secretary Mabus to give full consideration to this request, which was met with a favorable reply.

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 Johnston, 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 Secretary 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.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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