Vietnam Memorial 'Wall of Faces' Is Now Complete

Virtual wall has a photo for each of more than 58K fallen service members
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2023 6:20 PM CST
Vietnam Memorial 'Wall of Faces' Is Now Complete
The names of fallen soldiers are seen at Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

After an effort that involved thousands of volunteers over more than two decades, organizers say the virtual Wall of Faces is complete, with at least one photo for each of the more than 58,000 US military service members whose names are on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, DC. To get the photos, volunteers contacted families—who were sometimes reluctant to provide photos until they were told it wasn't a government project—worked with local historians, and combed through old high school yearbooks and newspaper obituaries, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Each photo links to a profile page where visitors can leave messages of remembrance. The project was organized by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund nonprofit.

In Wisconsin, the final photo wasn't found until a student volunteer realized that a high school yearbook had incorrectly listed Willie Bedford as B. Bedford, Fox 6 reports. Tim Tetz, the project's director of outreach, says seeing pictures of people before military service "sitting through that awkward school photo where their mom made them wear a funny sweater gets you to realize that they went through the same milestones and moments that each of us have gone through and really brings the sacrifice home." He tells the Monitor that some families were "very angry" about the war and it took "a long time to get them to work with us and understand we’re not the government and this is the purpose of what we want to do."

Volunteer Herb Reckinger, who joined the Navy Reserve during the Vietnam years to avoid getting drafted, helped find hundreds of photos to finish the project in Minnesota. He's now working on finding more—and better—photos for the names on the virtual wall. "I always felt that the Vietnam soldiers deserved better," Reckinger tells the Monitor. "I’m trying to see what a 70-year-old guy sitting in his basement can do." (Read more Vietnam War stories.)

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