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Building the Virtual Wall

‘Put a Face on a Name’ Campaign Gets Boost From Air Force Graduates

As the United States inches closer to another war on foreign soil, members of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund are encouraging the American public to remember those who served and died in America’s longest war.

The Memorial Fund’s “Put a Face with a Name” national campaign aims to collect digital photographs of each of the 58,229 men and women who died in the Vietnam War.

“The Put a Face with a Name campaign shows that each of those service members was a human being who was cut down in the prime of their life, protecting American values. We are committed to creating a complete online experience featuring the photographs of all those who lost their lives in Vietnam,” said Jan Scruggs, founder and president of VVMF.

The photographs are uploaded to the VVMF’s Web site, www.theviritualwall.org. The site offers a simulated experience to those who are not able to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the nation’s capital. Web visitors can download digital name rubbings, read profiles and post messages about those lost in the war or those who remain missing in action.

Alan Greilsamer, a spokesman for VVMF, said collecting the photos is a grassroots effort.

“We appeal to the families and friends of those who served, veterans and military organizations to help us spread the word about the campaign,” Greilsamer said. He said the group has also asked Members of Congress to help collect photos from their constituents.

Photographs can be scanned and uploaded from home, scanned and e-mailed to VVMF, or the originals can be mailed to the VVMF for them to upload and return. The memorial, which was started in September 2001, has already collected 8,000 photographs and continues to plug along.

“We hope to collect them all in a year or so,” Greilsamer said, but he cautions, “collecting these photos is an ongoing process, and it is hard to say for sure when we will have them all.”

Large windfalls from military organizations such as the Air Force Association of Graduates have helped the cause.

Bill Marvel, a 1969 Air Force Academy graduate, noticed the virtual wall was lacking Air Force Academy graduates. He enlisted the assistance of his alma mater and contributed the photographs of the 1966 to 1969 graduates.

“After exploring the virtual wall, we realized that it offered something more than just a list of names on the wall,” said James Shaw, president and CEO of the U.S. Air Force Academy Association of Graduates. “It allows us to pay homage to those brave graduates who died defending the values we want to instill in the young cadets at the Academy today.”

Greilsamer is crossing his fingers in hopes of having all the photographs collected and ready for virtual display when the new Veteran’s Memorial Visitor Center opens. The legislation is still pending for Congressional approval for the small underground facility to be built within the next two to three years, but Greilsamer said he is “pretty sure” the legislation will go through the 108th Congress.

VVMF expects Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to introduce the bill in the Senate within the next month.

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