Press Association on the Hunt for Vietnam Service Member Photos
As part of a national memorial project, the Kansas Press Association is joining other state press associations around the country in a search for photos of every soldier killed during the Vietnam War.
What started out as a way to give back to fallen war heroes has turned into a passion project for the Kansas Press Association, which has been hunting down photographs of Kansas service members killed during the Vietnam War as part of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation project, “Faces Never Forgotten.”
“It turned into a bigger project that we fell in love with,” said Member Services Director Emily Bradbury, who’s been spearheading the project since being contacted by a couple of other state press associations also searching for photos.
“We thought we would be a logical place to start,” Bradbury said. “A lot of our newspaper members would have run an announcement when [the service member] completed boot camp and eventually when they were killed in action.”
So far, KPA staff, newspaper members, public librarians, and even some Kansas school districts have helped track down about 50 of the roughly 260 missing photos. The images will eventually make their way to Washington, DC, where they will be displayed in the not-yet-open Education Center at the Vietnam Memorial Wall. In the meantime, the photos are being featured on the Memorial Fund’s online Wall of Faces.
“It’s slower than we’d like it to be,” Bradbury said of the process. “But we’re also having great experiences doing it.”
KPA Director of Governmental Affairs Richard Gannon has himself been making a lot of calls to try to locate photos.
“I take a name, a town, and I start calling people,” he said. “There’s no set pattern. It’s just a lot of research. I contact a lot of high schools, historical societies, mortuaries that might have handled the funeral.”
Gannon said the experience has been emotional: “You hear a lot of real sad stories.” He remembered one man who broke down on the phone when recalling his brother’s last words to him before he left for duty. “He turned to his brother and said, ‘I’m scared,’” Gannon said.
Bradbury and Gannon both said helping to locate the photos is a small way to give back to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. “If it means we spend a week trying to track down one photo, so be it,” Bradbury said. “It’s the least we can do.”