Longstanding military policy keeps vets from national memorial

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIVB) — The names of 74 veterans, including a man from Buffalo, are missing from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in the nation’s capital. But a push from a New York senator and a local family are trying to change a longstanding military policy that’s allowed the practice for years.

Buffalo native Terry Lee Henderson died on a training exercise in the South China Sea in 1969.

And although he’s a veteran of Vietnam, his name has been left off the National Memorial because the training wasn’t considered to be linked to war.

Sen. Charles Schumer,, D, N.Y. and Henderson’s family, who still live in Chautauqua County, are pushing the Department of Defense to memorialize Henderson and the other veterans who died in the same accident.

In June of 1969, the USS Frank E. Evans collided with an Australian vessel and went down.

Schumer said the government decided the South China Sea wasn’t a combat zone, despite its proximity to Vietnam, and despite the fact members of the military were training for combat in Vietnam.

Schumer said anything to give families of the fallen, like Henderson’s mother, some sense of solace is worth it.

“If it gives her some solace to be able to see her son’s name on the memorial wall here in Washington and to be able to go down, and like the other 50,000 families touch it and see that he’s remembered, we should do it,” Schumer said. “When somebody is in the military, and they’re preparing for combat, but they’re not exactly in combat, they should be afforded many of the same rights that many of those lost in combat were. And we have to revamp the whole way the military looks at this.”

Schumer said there are four other crew members of Henderson who live in New York, including two in New York City, one in Syracuse and another in Tarrytown.

All of them, he said, deserve to have their name, and their service, enshrined, like all other veterans who died in combat. He’s hoping to see those names by the Memorial Day 2016.

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