Courtney Backs Legislation to Add Sailors Names to Vietnam Wall After Hearing from Local Veteran
On June 3, 1969, Bill Thibeault was asleep on the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans as it sailed between Vietnam and the Spratly Islands before being struck by a much larger Australian aircraft carrier. The accident resulted in the ship being split in half with the bow section sinking in less than 5 minutes. A total of 74 sailors were killed in the disaster that day. Sadly, nearly 5 decades later, the names of Bill's deceased shipmates have still not been added to the Vietnam War Memorial wall because the Evans was technically outside of the designated combat zone, about 80 miles off the coast of Vietnam, when it was struck.
Bill came to my office as a fierce advocate for his fallen shipmates and asked for my help in his mission to find closure for the families of the sailors as well as for the survivors of the attack. I completely agree that his shipmate’s deaths should be viewed as casualties related to their service in the Vietnam War. After hearing from Bill, I joined the effort in Congress by cosponsoring legislation that would add the names of his fallen shipmates to the memorial wall in Washington, DC. Last month, this legislation was attached to our annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and passed by the House of Representatives. As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and a conferee working on the final NDAA compromise bill, I will fight to make sure the legislation honoring Bill's shipmates by fighting for it in the final version of the NDAA expected later this summer.