June 4, 2015
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Chuck Schumer is trying to get past a loophole in current law, that prevents Vietnam Veterans who died outside of the combat zone, from having their name placed on the Vietnam Wall.
Schumer says that Western New York native Terry Henderson & 73 other veterans died when the USS Frank E. Evans collided with an Australian aircraft carrier in South China Sea in June 1969. However, according to Schumer, because the training exercise was outside of the combat zone and not directly linked to war, the 74 names are not on the wall.
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 a 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.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator