A Memorial Day Remembrance: Syracuse WWII Veteran Dies with Dream Unfulfilled for Late Son

May 26, 2018

 

Larry Reilly, Sr. The photo above his chair is of his late son, Larry Reilly, Jr as a child.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

(Editor's note: The original story was first broadcast and published June 6, 2016.  The following is an  update to reflect Lawrence Reilly, Sr's passing, and also to mark Memorial Day.)

 A World War II Navy Veteran who sought unsuccessfully for nearly 49 years to have his late son's name and 73 others added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall has died with that dream unfulfilled.  Lawrence Reilly, Sr. was 93 when he passed away Wednesday.

According to his obituary, Reilly was originally from Long Island, and lived there before his military career took him to California in 1964.  Twenty years later, he moved to Florida, before settling in Syracuse in 1999. 

Reilly joined the navy in 1942, and served in combat during WWII.  He was discharged in 1948, joined the reserves in 1955, and recalled to active duty in 1961.  Reilly then served two deployments to Vietnam on the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge and three on the Frank Evans, the last of which ended with the sinking that killed his son. He retired from the Navy in 1974, after serving for more than 25 years and achieving the highest possible enlisted rank of Master Chief. 

Senator Chuck Schumer honored Reilly on the Senate floor Thursday, and promised to continue Railly's fight to add the names of his son and 73 other sailors to the memorial wall.

Reilly is survived by four children, 12 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren.  

(Here's the original story from 2016)

 A World War II navy veteran in Syracuse who lost his son in Vietnam is closer than he’s ever been to getting his son’s name on the Vietnam memorial wall.  Senator Chuck Schumer has been doing his part, and paid a visit Monday to 91-year-old Larry Reilly at his home on Meadowbrook Drive. 

"Are you Larry?"  Schumer asked as he entered the house.

"Yes I am!"  Larry Reilly replied enthusiastically.

"It's an honor to meet you, an honor," Schumer said.

"Welcome to Syracuse," Reilly said.

"I'm hopeful your long fight will come to a successful conclusion with my help," Schumer said.

"I hope so, too," Reilly replied.

"It's great to be here to see you, sir,"   Schumer said.  

Reilly was  well into his 40’s when he had re-enlisted in the navy and was serving on the USS Frank Evans with his son Larry Reilly, Jr. in 1969.

"They pulled us off temporarily to do an exercise.  We had the exercise underway on June 2nd.  We secured 11:00 at night; at 3 a.m., we got sunk," Reilly recalled.

"The Evans was sliced in two by a much, much larger  ship, the Melbourne, an Australian aircraft carrier," Schumer explained.  "They were in combat.  The whole reason the Evans was there was because of the Vietnam War and combat.  But because it was not within the official combat zone, the people who run the Vietnam Memorial didn't put their names on."

Larry Reilly survived the attack; his son did not.  Schumer is working to get Larry Reilly, Jr. and 73 other sailors who perished on the Evans on the wall.  Reilly senior says he’s been trying since 1970.

"Years ago, my wife and I sent a letter to every congressman, every single congressman," Reilly said.  "We didn't hear from anybody.  Seemed like nobody wanted to know anything about it."

Larry Reilly, Senior's daughter Luanne Oda shows photos to Sen. Schumer. He's holding a photo of father and son.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

  

Now, Senator Schumer says the Secretary of the Navy has given his approval, and now it awaits a decision by the Secretary of Defense.  Reilly isn’t giving up now.

"I'm looking to reach the top.  We're almost there, but...," Reilly said, determination in his voice.

"We're closer than we've ever been," Schumer assured.