War vet to sing in Mayville

Submitted Photos. Bill Thibeault plays at one of his concerts.

A Vietnam veteran is set to perform a song in Mayville on May 16 honoring shipmates who died in a collision, including Westfield native Terry Henderson.

Bill Thibeault’s “Recognition” remembers the 74 American sailors who died on June 3, 1969, when the USS Frank E. Evans collided with an Australian aircraft carrier. Thibeault was serving on the American vessel, which accidentally crossed the bow of the carrier and was sliced in two, with the front half sinking in three minutes.

“Even though they were in the Vietnam War, the 74 names are not on the Vietnam Wall because the collision happened outside the combat zone,” a press release from Thibeault states. “In 2018 Congress passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to get the names on the wall but it did not pass in the Senate.”

This frustrated Thibeault, and the singer/songwriter wrote “Recognition” this past July about the Evans and the lost 74. He has just released it on an album of the same name and will be traveling across America from May 11 to June 30 singing his song to honor and raise awareness of his lost shipmates.

“We were on the gun line for 15 days at the beginning of the May, then we had to go to the Philippines, then we were heading back to Vietnam,” Thibeault said in a phone interview. “On the way back to Vietnam, we were put on a training mission for SEATO (the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization), which was disbanded immediately after the war ended. That organization was put together for the war.

The cover of Bill Thibeault’s album, “Recognition.”

“We’ve been denied by the government constantly,” he said. “It’s one excuse after another, and I’m not giving up.”

Thibeault called himself “a mix of a lot of different things” musically. “I’m primarily a rock artist. Blues, country rock, there’s a mix.”

He said of his 10-track “Recognition” album, “There’s a whole wide variety of things happening on there musically. It’s a culmination of 50 years of experience. I don’t think people in their 20s could have written these songs.”

Thibeault’s Mayville performance will be at Big Inlet Brewing. One of the owners of the brewery is Randy Henderson, brother of Terry Henderson from Westfield, who died in the collision.

After Mayville, Thibeault will head to Butler, Pa.; South Bend, Ind.; Waterloo and Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Neb.; Denver, Colo.; Long Beach, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Albuquerque, N.Mex.; Sulphur Springs, Texas; Branson, Mo.; Nashville, Tenn; and Macon, Ga.

Bill Thibeault playing guitar onboard a ship while he was in the Navy.

While in Long Beach, Thibeault will attend a memorial ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the USS Frank Evans disaster.