WAYNESBURG – It is called the Wall of Faces, a virtual tribute to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces killed in action during the Vietnam War.
Eventually, the stories and photographs displayed there will become part of an $85 million museum and education center in Washington, D.C. Construction is expected to begin next year. Some of the records on the WOF are missing an accompanying photograph, including three of the seven from Greene County killed in action during the Vietnam War.
Jerry Richmond, a Dunmore native and Vietnam veteran, said he was compelled to locate photos, biographies and stories for these fallen comrades after he stumbled across the virtual wall.
“When I found it, I started looking up people I knew and realized a few of them didn’t have any pictures,” Richmond said. “I am retired now, so I started the project to see if I can get pictures posted for those who don’t have them. Pennsylvania is my home state, so that is why I started with it.”
New Mexico is the only state with 100 percent of its Vietnam soldiers killed in action represented with photographs.
Richmond sent his “call for photos of hometown heroes” to media outlets in areas where photos were missing.
The photos of Greene County soldiers Richmond sought were of Pfc. Daniel E. Allum, 20, of Dilliner, killed Oct. 27, 1965; Cpl. Keith Arthur Held, 20, of Mt. Morris, killed Jan. 28, 1950; and W.O. Glenn C. Hopes, 21, of Waynesburg, killed Dec. 29, 1967.
In a few short days, the WOF will be updated with photos of the three obtained by the Observer-Reporter through reader Wayne Hart of Waynesburg, who found the photos on reference CDs.
From 2002 to 2007, interns working for Greene County scanned yearbooks from each of the county’s five school districts, beginning with the founding year of the high school to the present day, to digitally preserve them. Fortunately, the O-R was aware Hart owned a set of the CDs and he agreed to share them.
They will join fellow Greene County Vietnam soldiers already pictured on the WOF: Pfc. Brent A. McClellan, 21, of Clarksville, Feb. 28, 1966; HN Robert Thomas Efaw, 19, of Waynesburg, Aug. 24, 1965; Capt. John Richard Hill, 29, April 27, 1970; and SP4 Joseph Paul Antonelli, 20, of Bobtown, Jan. 14, 1970.
Eventually, these seven will be among the 58,000 men and women from the Vietnam Wall memorial in Washington, D.C., who will have their faces and stories shared at the museum/education center.
“The idea of the education center is a place to put the faces with the names and make people realize these are not just names on a wall,” Richmond said. “These were people with families, lives, hopes and dreams like all of us. Unfortunately, their lives were cut short.”
Though photos for all seven Greene County soldiers killed in Vietnam are now available, some of them are poor quality. Richmond hopes family, friends, schoolmates and others will come forward with additional images of these men.
“We also want photos of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Richmond said. “They won’t appear on the Wall of Faces because it is dedicated to the Vietnam War, but they will be used in a separate area in the education center dedicated to them.”
This section of the museum/education center will serve as a memoriam to those killed in recent conflicts until such time as a proper memorial is built for them, he added.
The WoF website, www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/, was started by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. VVMF is a nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 1980 to build a Vietnam War memorial.
The museum and education center project is a continuation of the VVMF’s work to remember the men and women on the wall. Since the Vietnam Wall was built in 1982, tributes at its base have been collected, catalogued and held in trust by the National Park Service. The VVMF estimates there are more than 400,000 tributes, including Teddy bears, cards, letters, dog tags and other personal items collected. These will be placed at the museum and education center on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans and Lincoln Memorials.
The VVFM website said, “the center will celebrate the legacy of service that links the heroes of America’s past to those still serving today.”
Richmond hopes to contribute to that legacy as he continues the quest to put faces with the names of fallen comrades from every state. Of Pennsylvania’s 3,142 Vietnam soldiers who died in battle, there are more than 800 without photos, Richmond said.
“This is an enormous undertaking for one person, so I am reaching out to the major newspapers in each county to help me reach the public to garner support for this project,” Richmond said. “I’ve had a good response so far. Almost every day, I receive a letter in the mail or an email talking about someone’s family and friends. It is extremely important that we never forget those that served, their sacrifice and the impact this war had for generations to come.”
Photos/remembrances can be left directly online at www.vvmf.org/wall-of-faces/ or they can be forwarded to Richmond for inclusion at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jerry Richmond, Project “Call for Photos” Vietnam Wall Education Center, 3240 Hardwood Drive, Murfreesboro, TN 37129.