Washington -- On a fateful 1969 night 650 miles off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea, the USS Frank E. Evans collided with an Australian ship during a training exercise. The Evans sunk almost immediately, taking the lives of 74 sailors.
But it wasn't until years later that surviving family and friends realized the 74 were not being treated as casualties of the war with a place on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
"It didn't come to light until the Memorial wall was dedicated, and the relatives of the lost sailors would go and not find their sons on the wall," says Steve Krauss, who was on board the ship that terrible night and has been fighting for the names to be added.
Department of Defense policy requires that any servicemember added to the memorial wall died in the defined combat zone. When the DoD reviewed the case of the Evans, it found that it was outside of the combat zone and not participating in direct support of combat operations.
"We're asking for an exception to the rule," says Krauss. "We're not trying to say, 'We fit the criteria, because we were in the combat zone.'"
There may just be new reason for hope. Last week the House passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) that urges Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reconsider adding the names to the wall.
"I think it's the farthest we've come and are hopeful of a positive outcome," says Rep. Schiff. "It shouldn't matter that they were outside the artificial line in the water that demarcates where that zone begins and ends."
As the country celebrates those lost in battle this Memorial Day, Rep. Schiff and survivors of the Evans have pledged to continue fighting until the 74 are added to the wall.
"They earned their place of recognition on that wall," Schiff says. "And their inclusion does not detract from the more than 58,000 who lost their lives."