My father Lawrence Reilly was among the 74 men killed on the USS Frank E. Evans while deployed fighting the Vietnam War. Since the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. the United States government has denied adding the 74 names to The Wall because they say he and the others did not die fighting the war in Vietnam.
This is the second tragedy: that they, my father among them, have been forgotten.
Today we the families and survivors are closer than ever to reversing this heartbreaking injustice. In 2015 the State of California added to its Vietnam Veterans memorial in Sacramento the names of the 22 Californians killed in this tragedy, my father among them. Today the Secretary of the Navy agrees that the names warrant addition to the country’s memorial to the Vietnam Fallen. Today we the families and survivors have a small group of lawmakers working on our behalf.
In 2014 we were closer than ever with Congress attaching to the Defense Spending bill language that urged the Secretary of Defense to order that the names be added.
And then nothing happened.
Today the issue is stalling.
Here comes the third tragedy.
In early 2016 Senator John McCain sent a letter to one of his constituents stating that there needs to be money to do this. That’s right. I lost my father a few months after my first birthday and had to live my life without him, and now I am told that our government won’t remember him because of money.
Yes, it’s money.
My father Lawrence Reilly was on his second cruise to Vietnam on June 3, 1969 when he lost his life at 20 years of age. His father, my grandfather, was a Navy chief serving aboard that same vessel. While my grandfather, a decorated World War II veteran, survived the wreck, his son, my father, did not. The story of my family is told in the book American Boys: The True Story of the Lost 74 of the Vietnam War, by Louise Esola. Louise, who has become close with our family, is a journalist who spent four years working on this award-winning book that documents the indisputable fact that the names of the 74 men killed on the USS Frank E. Evans belong on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I invite you to read up on this and see for yourself, the entire story.
This is a slap in the face of all who’ve lost loved ones in war.
How dare they being up money to families who lost everything, who gave all, our blood.
According to American Boys, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial fund’s founder Jan Scruggs, in opposition to name additions in 2003, told a Congressional Committee that the cost to add a name to the Vietnam Wall is upwards of $3,500 per name.
For our 74 that’s $259.000.
Will I get my father back? No.
But at least I can know that this country, the country he died fighting for, will remember him and the others.
Today I ask you to help me make a sizeable donation to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in honor of the Lost 74. I would like to send a message that we are a nation that remembers its fallen. That we never forget. Please donate what you can to this important gesture. No donation is too little.
We want to tell them that we don’t forget our fallen. Ever.