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Riding For Recognition - KOAM TV 7

Riding For Recognition

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MIAMI, OKLAHOMA -

"He was born the same day I was. He wen to the University of Colorado, I went to the University of Colorado."

Looking at a banner displaying 74 of his former shipmates, Navy veteran Del Francis remembers the stories of the men who died aboard the USS Frank E Evans.
 
"It was his 19th birthday the day it went down," Francis said, pointing at a photo. 

June 3, 1969. An Australian aircraft carrier struck the Frank E Evans during a military exercise. 74 military men on board died. Francis survived. 

"Everybody I lived with and everybody I worked with died," Francis said.

Because the collision happened outside the designated combat zone, the 74 sailors who died have yet to be honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

"I've personally been around the country looking up many of the families. And they're heart broken," Francis said. "I know many of them have driven across the country to see their son's name of the wall to find out it's not there."

So Francis is done taking a back seat. He's now taking to his bike seat. 

Followed by his girl friend and a fellow vet in an RV, Francis is biking from his home in Sulphur Springs, Tex. to Washington D.C. stopping wherever he can to call attention to the lost 74.

"Kind of aiming at getting these guys on the wall kind of makes up for some of the crap we went through back then," Navy vet Larry Cuzzupe said. 

"I don't feel that the wall is complete without these 74 men on it," Francis said. 

The bike ride has already taken Del Francis 325 miles through the country. Stopping in Oklahoma on Monday, planning to stop in Golden City, MO on Tuesday.

"It's important to remember these people for what they did," Francis said. "They were doing their duty. And they were doing it well.  And for them to be shunned and not put on that wall is a sacrilege. And I'm doing it for them."

There is a proposed amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, which would recognize the 74 who died.

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