SCHUMER: ON MEMORIAL DAY, SENATOR CONTINUES PUSH TO ADD 74 NAMES ON VIETNAM VETERAN MEMORIAL WALL SAILORS DIED IN VIETNAM WAR IN SOUTH CHINA SEA IN 1969, BUT BECAUSE ACCIDENT WAS RULED OUTSIDE THE DESIGNATED COMBAT ZONE, THOSE WHO PERISHED ARE LEFT OFF MEMORIAL WALL
Terry Lee Henderson, Larry Reilly Jr., and 72 other American Sailors Tragically Died When U.S.S. 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 are Not Recognized on Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall
Schumer Says These 74 Americans Bravely Served Their Country Inside & Outside The Combat Zone; Adding the Names of These Heroes to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the Proper Acknowledgement For Their Sacrifice
Schumer: Engrave These 74 Vietnam Sailors Names on National Memorial; They Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice for America and Deserve Recognition
On Memorial Day, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced he is continuing his push to have the names of Terry Lee Henderson of Mayville, Larry Reilly Jr., whose father Larry Reilly Sr. was a survivor of the wreck and now a resident of Syracuse, and 72 other Americans enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. Schumer explained that these Americans served their country during the Vietnam War and died in a war-related exercise in the South China Sea. Schumer said their families have fought for years to have the names of these sailors engraved alongside the other Vietnam War dead.
“Memorial Day is a time to reflect upon the service of so many brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country. For the families of the 74 sailors, it’s a time to remember the loved ones that they have lost. The bureaucratic rules that dictate who may or may not be enshrined on this wall have led to this miscarriage of justice. The Reilly and Henderson families, and the families of the 72 other sailors, should be able to visit that wall and pay tribute to the brave young men who gave their lives,” Schumer said. “I will not give up this fight. We’re going to keep pushing, tooth and nail, until those names are memorialized where they should be.”
“We’ve had the support of previous Navy Secretaries and countless veterans organizations. We’ve been working on this for years, but Senator Schumer’s involvement has kicked this into a higher gear. My brother and his shipmates deserve recognition, and my mother and the rest of the family members should be able to visit that memorial and see their names there. The bureaucracy involved in getting proper recognition for American heroes is just absurd,” said Randy Henderson, brother of Terry Lee Henderson.
Schumer announced today that he sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Starkley to request his support in honoring the sailors. Schumer first launched this push in 2015 and his initial letter helped secure the support of then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In 2016, Schumer visited the Henderson and Reilly families at their homes to learn more about the effort and to announce he was introducing an amendment to a national defense authorization bill to enshrine the sailors, but it was not included in the final bill.
On June 3, 1969, the U.S.S. Frank E. Evanscollided 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 U.S.S. Frank E. Evans were important 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 and Reilly, properly enshrined on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor their memory, bravery, and sacrifice.
Schumer said those aboard the U.S.S. 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 crew members proper recognition for their bravery, sacrifice and noble service. Schumer also noted the similarities between the Vietnam Service Medal and the criteria for inclusion on the Vietnam Wall, which is nearly identical. The Frank E. Evans crew was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal for their service during the accident.
Schumer’s letter to Secretary Stackley appears below:
Dear Acting Secretary Stackley,
I am writing to you, as I have to your predecessor, on behalf of the 74 sailors lost aboard the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans on June 3, 1969. It is my request, and the request of the survivors and the families of the fallen, that they 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 a 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 proper recognition for their brave and noble service, and closure for their long-suffering families.
Just a few days after it provided fire for ground troops in Vietnamese waters, the U.S.S. 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 whom were likely to return to the conflict after the exercise – were killed in the wreckage. However, because the tragedy was deemed to have taken place outside of the designated combat zone, the crew was ineligible for inclusion on the Vietnamese Veterans Memorial.
For years, surviving crewmembers and relatives of the fallen sailors have struggled to understand why geographical lines supersede recognition of service, particularly when numerous exceptions have been made since the memorial’s construction. Their combat-related service deserves acknowledgment upon the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, just as it warranted receipt of the Vietnam Service Medal.
Secretary Mabus remained supportive of this request until the end of his term. I urge you to support the families’request as well. Thank you for your consideration of this request. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or my staff.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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