A New Jersey United States Senator is making a new push to have the names of 74 sailors who died during the Vietnam War added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington D.C. — after the story of one such New Jersey sailor made news this week.

In 1969, the sailors were killed in the South China Sea after their ship, the USS Frank E. Evans, collided with an Australian aircraft carrier. The bodies of many who perished, including 19-year-old Navy Seaman Patrick Corcoran, whose family lives in North Wildwood, were never found.

“The sailors were deemed ineligible for inclusion on the wall because the ship was technically not in waters considered a combat zone,” U.S. Senator Bob Menendez said. “The fact is the ship had played an active role in the combat zone in Vietnam and during the war it received four battle stars for various engagements from1965 to 1969, and the fact that on the tragic day that the ship went down it was technically out of the combat zone, shouldn’t negate their engagement and participation in the Vietnam war, which cannot be disputed.”

Menendez said the issue was brought to his attention by New Jersey veterans groups and some of the families of the men to perished in the accident, and “they deserve to have those names on the wall as a memorial that they can go visit along with all those other families from across the country and our state.”

Menendez said he’s reaching out to the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and urging him “to support inclusion of the 74 sailors on the Frank E. Evans on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Mall. We look forward to the Secretary of Defense reacting positively to our lobbying effort.”

He noted there is precedent for this kind of change to take place.

“In 1983 President Reagan made an exception to the rule when he ordered the names of 68 marines who died on a flight outside of the combat zone but on their way back to Vietnam to be added to the wall,” Menendez said. “So it’s not unreasonable for a similar exception to be made in this case as well, as in essence a final resting place where they can be honored by their families and all Americans and I’ll do my best to help get it accomplished.”

He added “it’s always important for a grateful nation to recognize the sacrifices, particularly those that make the ultimate sacrifice, the loss of their lives, in defense of the nation, and even though for some the Vietnam war may no longer be important the memories of those who served and died need to live forever.”

Menendez stressed “they live forever certainly in the hearts and minds of their families and their friend, but for the nation they live forever on the Vietnam war memorial.”

An American flag given to the North Wildwood family of Seaman Corcoran when he died was stolen from in front of the family's home over the Fourth of July weekend, but after news of the theft spread it was returned to a neighbor by an unidentified woman.

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