ELMHURST — Volunteers are coordinating a statewide effort to track down photos of Illinois natives killed during the Vietnam War as part of a national project by a veterans group.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund started the “Wall of Faces” project about a decade ago to find photos for the more than 58,300 names listed on the monument in Washington, D.C. The group is working to create a digital database of the photos, the Daily Herald reported.
Andrew Johnson is an Elmhurst native and a volunteer working to find soldiers’ photos through the project. As the incoming president of the National Newspaper Association, Johnson is raising awareness about the task through his connections in the industry, and has been collaborating with the Illinois Press Association for the past two years to put faces to the state’s service members who died in the war.
Organizers are still missing photos for more than 330 Illinois service members killed in Vietnam. Nationwide there are almost 4,000 missing photos.
“A lot of these Gold Star brothers and families are dying,” Johnson said. “A lot of these Vietnam guys are getting old. I believe we have a short window of time to really get this done. I think we need to move on it quickly now.”
The fund prefers informal pictures of the soldiers, such as family photos and photos at social events.
“Those are fantastic photos that help tell the story because when we think that the 58,318 Americans who died were nothing but names or numbers, then we forget their sacrifices and what they gave us,” said Tim Tetz, the fund’s outreach director.
The group’s goal is to display the photos in the Education Center at The Wall, a $130 million underground structure that would be built near the Washington memorial.