Novato family wants loved one's name on Vietnam War memorial

The families of 74 sailors killed during the Vietnam War are fighting to get their loves ones recognized.

They want their names included on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C.

KTVU spoke with the Novato family of Lawrence Reilly Junior.

He was one of those sailors killed onboard the USS Frank E. Evans.

Relatives say the 74 men made the ultimate sacrifice, but have been all but forgotten.

The turbulent '60's, Vietnam was an unpopular war, and protests raged across the country.

"I realize it was a very painful time in our country, but that pain hasn't stopped," said Larry Reilly III, son of the sailor killed."

For Reilly and his Uncle Jim, that pain is still palpable as they step back in time, pouring over old photos and newspaper clippings: June 3, 1969 was a day they'll never forget.

Two family members were serving on the USS Frank E. Evans: Lawrence Senior and his 20-year-old son, Lawrence Junior.

An Australian ship struck the destroyer, slicing it in half during a training exercise in the South China Sea.

The father survived, while the son was lost at sea with other men.

He left behind a young wife and a 14-month-old son, named after him.
"I never had my dad. My son will never have his grandfather.. that's painful," said Reilly III.

Adding to their pain is that the names of the 74 sailors were never included on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C.

The "Evans" had seen combat, providing gunfire support to U.S. Marines on the ground in Vietnam, but had traveled outside the official war zone to re-arm and train.

"We have what I consider to be a very proud and long tradition of military service in the family. I think it's dishonorable to all members of our family that my brother's name is not on that wall." said Jim Reilly, brother of the sailor lost at sea.

The Reillys say they suspect politics is behind the exclusion of the 74 men from the Memorial Wall.

"The United States government was unhappy about the fact that 74 guys got killed in one incident in 1969, at a time where there was a lot of anti-war sentiment in the United States," said Jim Reilly, a Navy veteran himself who also served in Vietnam.

The Reillys and the families of the other men lost at sea say they've contacted their Congress people and written to the President for years without success.

"It has taken a long time. I'm determined to stay with this until we succeed," said California Congressman Adam Schiff.

He says he's been working with the families. While the Secretary of the Navy agrees the 74 men should be included. Schiff says the final decision will come from the Secretary of Defense, and available space on the wall.

"That I think is the primary holdup. I think we're seeing an increasing level of support certainly in congress," said Schiff. .

The Reillys say Arizona Senator John McCain sent out a form letter to one family, who asked him for help, indicating that another holdup is funding. 

"It's ridiculous and it makes me angry," said Reilly III,

"They served their country. They did it honorably and they did it without complaint. For that, they been kicked in the teeth."

Lawrence Reilly Sr., the father who survived, is now 91-years-old and living in upstate New York.
"I would like my father to be able to go down there, trace my brother's name off the wall," said Jim Reilly who says his mother past away 3 years ago without seeing this happen.

The family is asking for the public to write to their representatives, the President, the Secretary of Defense, to get their loved ones their rightful place of honor on the Vietnam War Memorial.

The Reillys say they won't rest until that happens. 

A go fund me site has been created to accept donations to put the 74 additional names on the Vietnam Wall. Go to the top of, and click on the web links tab, and then the "Put their names on the Wall" link.