COUNTY — The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is searching photos for fallen soldiers from Maine to include in a new memorial so they’re not forgotten and lost in the annals of history.
It is a two-fold project with the online version, The Wall of Faces, where family and friends can leave remembrances for each of the 58,307 U.S. casualties of the Vietnam War. Their photos will be permanently displayed in the future Education Center at The Wall, which will be located adjacent to the Vietnam Memorial at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
But there are many of the fallen whose photographs are missing from the Pine Tree State.
“Maine still needs 75 photos of the 342 that died. Four photos have been sent in since I sent the email out [two weeks ago,]” said retired Air Force and volunteer Dave Hine of Greenfield, Ind.
There are five men from Oxford County who still do not have pictures for the memorial. They include Chester L. Hopkins of West Paris, who was in the Marine Corps and died May 12, 1967, Laurence A. Millet of Norway, who was in the Army and died Aug. 31, 1969, Roger P. Gallant of Mexico, who was in the Army and died Jan. 14, 1967, George R. Reynolds Jr. of Paris, who was in the Army and died Sept. 1, 1966, and Neil H. Mackillop of Bryant Pond, who was in the Army and died Feb. 1, 1969.
“The two oldest men from Maine are from Knox County,” Hine said. “They were born in 1929 and 1924, so the one thing that I try to emphasis when I talk to anyone that will listen [is] we had men that were born in 1909, 1911 that served in Vietnam. … There might not be many family members left.”
The project was started in 2009 and Hine began helping with it about five years ago, initially searching for photos of fallen soldiers in his area of Indiana. His search spread through out the state, then to Ohio as he served at an Air Force base there, and eventually to the Northeast.
“I think anyone who’s been in the service, you continue to think about those serving and those who served before,” he said. “Vietnam was my generation’s war. I could have easily gone to Vietnam. Instead I went to Europe.”
But this did not prevent the war from hitting home. A couple of Hine’s classmates were killed in Vietnam and he now reads articles about soldiers’ remains found in the country and homecoming ceremonies held for veterans that should have happened years ago.
And he wants to help gather the photos from Maine as quickly as possible. That’s because sometimes photos are thrown out as well as other circumstances that could make portraits and other pictures difficult to find.
He recalled the search for one man’s photo where the widow’s house was struck by lightning and the only thing that could be used in the memorial was their wedding photo and the flag that was draped over his coffin.
Hine noted Roger P. Gallant was the oldest fallen soldier from Oxford County, as he was born in 1938.
“Time is running out. Not just for the ones born in 1924 or 1929 from Maine,” Hine said. “It doesn’t matter what year they were born, depending on their circumstances, like the widow who had her house burn down. … We need to make sure we find photos.”
Any day someone visits The Wall of Faces – at www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/ – will show the fallen soldiers who were born on that day.
“You will see some blanks. That’s what we’re trying to do is fill in the blanks,” Hines said. “There’s eight women who died in Vietnam. Thankfully all those women have photos on there.”
Fundraising is currently underway for the Education Center at the Wall. The goal is to have all the money raised by 2018 so construction can begin and to have the doors open by 2020. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund hopes to have all of the fallen soldiers’ photos collected by then.
“It will be a larger-than-life display of these men’s faces,” Hines said about the memorial once its constructed.
Photos of the missing Maine soldiers can be emailed to Hine at firstname.lastname@example.org or uploaded directly to the memorial fund’s website by searching for a solidier’s name and clicking on “Submit Photos” on that person’s webpage. Printed copies of photos can be mailed to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund office at 1235 S. Clark St., Suite 910, Arlington, VA 22202.
For more information, email email@example.com.