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There are 58,318 names of soldiers who were killed in action during the Vietnam War or remain missing on a memorial in Washington D.C. Fifty-one belong to Augustans.
One program has spent 10 years attempting to put a face to each name on the wall. The Wall of Faces is a project of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which built the memorial wall in 1982. Only 1,822 soldiers are currently missing pictures, and four of those soldiers were from Augusta.
“What we found is that the wall is very powerful, and seeing just that mass quantity of names is very powerful, but when you show someone a picture it elicits a whole different response,” said Heidi Zimmerman, the vice president of programs and communication for the memorial fund.
The photos come from sources including high school yearbooks, obituaries, military yearbooks and directly from family members. Zimmerman said there are about 100 volunteers throughout the country who consistently work to match faces to the names on the wall.
“The pictures really kind of hammer it home that it’s not just a name, it’s a face, and behind that face is a story,” Zimmerman said. “It really helps you pull together the full impact of losing each of those people.”
Zimmerman said the photos can be particularly powerful for veterans, who may see their fellow service member frozen in time while they aged. Below each photo on the fund’s website, visitors can leave remembrances for the soldiers who might have been their friend, family or fellow service member.
The project also serves to educate generations on the Vietnam War. The Wall that Heals, a mobile education center, travels the country with a three-quarter scale replica of the original wall. Zimmerman said the project helps people understand the war’s legacy.
This year, 6,000 pictures have been submitted for the Wall of Faces. There is one name missing a photo from Aiken County, and as the overall number of missing pictures dwindles, Zimmerman said she’s not sure the project will find faces to match every name on the wall.
The project uses the hometown listed on the soldier’s papers when they enlisted, and if the family moved away from the area, it could be difficult to find their photo. Other veterans could have no family left.
Zimmerman said the project will not stop trying to find the missing faces, however, and will continue to educate the public on those lost during the war.
“It’s about preserving their legacy and educating current generations about the impact the Vietnam War had on America,” Zimmerman said. “The pictures and each individual story is a big part of that.” ___
This article is written by Sarah LeBlanc from The Augusta Chronicle, Ga. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.