A group working to build an education center adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is seeking photographs and stories of servicemen killed in the war, 109 of whom were from Riverside County.
According to the nonprofit Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the Education Center at The Wall is moving toward its first phase of construction, but organizers still lack photos and background information on more than 26,000 men killed during the roughly 13-year-long Vietnam War.
"We are losing Vietnam veterans at an alarmingly fast rate," said Jan Scruggs, president and founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. "Each day, we lose about 390 to illness and age. Their stories are in danger of being lost forever if we don't take action now to ensure they become a part of our collective national memory."
A total of 58,286 airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines from the U.S. and its territories were killed, according to the U.S. National Archives. California had the highest number of deaths -- 5,575.
More than 1,600 servicemen remain unaccounted for, according to the Department of Defense.
The 35,000-square-foot Education Center at The Wall will include profiles of American wars and the people who fought them, beginning with the Revolutionary War and ending with Afghanistan. The largest platform will be dedicated to Vietnam.
According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website, the effort is about "giving a face to the faceless," referring to the 494-foot granite wall that lists the names of military members who died.
Many of the 400,000 items of tribute and memorabilia that have been left at the wall since its dedication in November 1982 will be on display inside the education center. But according to supporters, letters, snapshots and narratives that fill in the blanks about thousands of servicemen are needed.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has undertaken a campaign, dubbed "Faces Never Forgotten," in the hope of encouraging friends and relations of fallen servicemen to send in photos and information.
According to Scruggs, the Education Center at The Wall project has about $27 million, and groundbreaking is scheduled on the National Mall for sometime in 2016. But another $89 million will be needed to complete the project, Scruggs said.
"We will continue to depend on the dedication and generosity of those individuals, organizations and communities that make it their goal to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and contribute in their honor," he said.
To submit a photo or story for the project, visit http://www.buildthecenter.vvmf.org/pages/faces-never-forgotten-campaign .
Monetary donations can be made at https://donate.vvmf.org/page/contribute/donate-to-the-education-center .
Anyone with questions can call the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund at 202-393-0090.
—City News Service