It can happen and it should happen.
Last week, Seacoast Sunday shared the story of the “Lost 74,” a group of Navy personnel killed during the Vietnam War when their destroyer was accidentally sliced in half by an Australian aircraft carrier. Seventy-four men were killed in service to their country during a war.
Among those lost were 21-year-old Gary Joseph Vigue, a 1965 Dover High School graduate who left behind a wife and a 5-month-old son.
However, because the accident occurred outside the designated combat zone of the time, the men who make up the “Lost 74” don’t qualify for inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
That is wrong and must be corrected as soon as possible as the fatal accident occurred June 3, 1969.
Excluding those who made the ultimate sacrifice because of an arbitrary line is out of touch with reality. Thankfully though, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Angus King of Maine are two co-sponsors of a bill to have the sailors’ names added to the memorial.
This follows Shaheen's efforts to help secure a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery for the 129 men lost April 10, 1963, when USS Thresher sank and imploded during sea trials off the coast of Massachusetts.
"It is long overdue that these men join their fellow fallen brothers and receive the recognition they deserve on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall," Shaheen said recently. "Boundary lines drawn in the water shouldn't determine the respect we pay our servicemen and women killed in the line of duty - they gave their lives for this country and their sacrifice deserves equal recognition."
Kevin Galeaz of Hooksett and commander of (United States Submarine Veterans) Thresher Base, led the effort to create the Thresher memorial in Arlington. Its creation, he said, “meant everything to me because the family members finally had solace. They had been waiting for 56 years for this memorial to be placed in Arlington National Cemetery.”
Galeaz also said the monument helps maintain the legacy of those lost aboard Thresher and perpetuates the story of the Thresher and the submarine safety measures enacted after its loss.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall not only enshrines the legacy of the men and women who lost their lives during the war, it serves as a continuous source of healing in a nation divided by that conflict. It brings balance to how the soldiers and sailors of the Vietnam War were treated upon their return to the States.
Service to our country is one of the most noble things men and women can do. All steps must be taken to enshrine those who die in service of their country.
The legislation to add the "Lost 74" to the wall should be passed swiftly and those in charge of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall should follow suit with the same sense of urgency.
In the event some want to stand at an imaginary line, they might instead think of stating their case while looking into the eyes of widows, children and other family members left without a husband, father, son or brother. It’s hard to imagine one would be so entrenched as to not feel compassion and compelled to do the right thing.
This editorial appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of Foster’s Daily Democrat and was distributed by the Associated Press. It does not necessarily represent the views of Navy Times or its staffers.