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Politics and Government

Family pushes for son's name to be included on Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Ellen Abbott

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is working on breaking through the military bureaucracy to get the name of a Syracuse man and others who were involved in a naval accident 47 years ago on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Larry Reilly, Sr. says it was as simple as turning the wrong way in the South China Sea in June 1969. The USS Frank E. Evans, a Navy Destroyer, was hit in the middle of the night by an Australian aircraft carrier.

“We were in Vietnam because of the war, that’s why we were there. We wouldn’t have been there is there wasn’t a war going on. They pulled us off temporarily to do an exercise. We had the exercise going on the second. We secured at 11 at night. At three o’clock in the morning we got sunk,” said Reilly.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Larry Reilly, Sr.

Reilly survived. His son, Larry Reilly, Jr., who served aboard the same ship, was among 74 sailors who did not. Since then, Reilly’s family has been fighting to get recognition for his son’s sacrifice.

"We’ve been trying since 1970 to get the names on the wall. My wife sent out letters to all the congressmen, my son handed the vice president a folder with this whole story a couple of years ago.”

Enter Schumer.

“I am going to do everything, everything, everything to get this justified and get Larry Jr.’s name on that wall,” said Schumer, during a visit with the family in Syracuse.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
The Reilly family with Sen. Charles Schumer.

The Navy has never put names of the victims of the Evans accident on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington because the boat was just outside the combat zone at the time of the accident. Schumer says the Navy has changed its mind on this topic now.

"I’ve spoken to Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, and he’s on our side. Now it’s on the desk of the secretary of defense.”

And Shumer is optimistic. "We’re closer that we’ve ever been.”