February 6, 2023


Volunteers have now tracked down at least one photo for every one of the more than 58,000 U.S. military service members who died in the Vietnam War – for an online Wall of Faces project that took more than two decades to complete.

The goal was to help a new generation of Americans grapple with sacrifice and inspire them to reflect, perhaps, on “why we have a wall” with names inscribed on it, say organizers from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the nonprofit that spearheaded the digital project as well as the national monument on which all these names are engraved.

Why We Wrote This

A volunteer labor of love has resulted in something remarkable: an online photo archive of every U.S. military service member killed in Vietnam, bringing their humanity home to current and future generations.

Over the years the picture-gathering process could be fraught: Relatives were sometimes reluctant to share photos of loved ones killed in battles picked by a government their survivors had come to distrust.

For Jacqueline Smith, who lost her big brother Richard Fina in 1968, the photos hammer home that these were “such young men,” she says. 

“If it wasn’t for the picture it would just be another name – you read about him and think, ‘Oh, that’s sad,’” she adds. “But you look at their young faces, and it just means so much.” 

Volunteers have now tracked down at least one photo for every one of the more than 58,000 U.S. military service members who died in the Vietnam War – for an online Wall of Faces project that took more than two decades to complete.

The goal was to help a new generation of Americans grapple with sacrifice and inspire them to reflect, perhaps, on “why we have a wall” with names inscribed on it, say organizers from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), the nonprofit that spearheaded the digital project as well as the national monument on which all these names are engraved.

More than half of the visitors to the memorial in Washington, D.C., today weren’t alive when it was commissioned in 1982, they add.

Why We Wrote This

A volunteer labor of love has resulted in something remarkable: an online photo archive of every U.S. military service member killed in Vietnam, bringing their humanity home to current and future generations.

Over the years the picture-gathering process could be fraught: Relatives were sometimes reluctant to share photos of loved ones killed in battles picked by a government their survivors had come to distrust.

And stock photos taken straight out of, say, boot camp graduation can be surprisingly tough to come by. “The military doesn’t just sit there and funnel pictures to you,” says Herb Reckinger, a volunteer. 



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