Future education center in D.C. will honor N.D. veterans

Editor’s Note: This story is part of an occasional series about the nation’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. President Barack Obama recently proclaimed May 28, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2025, as the anniversary time frame. 

BISMARCK — A future education center in Washington, D.C., will display photos of North Dakota soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Organizers of the Education Center at the Wall, which is slated to open Veterans Day 2014, are seeking the public’s help so a photo of every U.S. soldier killed in Vietnam can be featured in an exhibit.

The digital photo exhibit will honor the 58,282 soldiers whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This includes 198 North Dakotans.

So far, they have collected 27,644 photos from around the country, including 196 from North Dakota. They still need photos of two North Dakotans killed in the conflict. (Harold Edward Berg Jr.of Rhame and David Allen Larson of Belcourt)

“These were mostly very young men who had hopes and dreams and lives that they left behind,” said Lee Allen, spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C., which is behind the project. “We see them right now as a list of names, and we need to look beyond the name and scratch the surface and take a look at who they were.”

Organizers have had great success getting photos from some states, such as North Dakota, but others, such as Minnesota, have been more challenging, Allen said.

“We hope to get as many (photos) as we can,” he said. “We certainly don’t have to have them all in order to open, but we’re hoping we’ll have a good majority of the photos by the time we open.”

The education center also will feature photos of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Jan Scruggs, president and founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. These photos already have been collected.

The approximately $85 million education center will be located between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. The 35,000-square-foot center will be built underground so it doesn’t obstruct the views of these memorials, Allen said.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund received approval for the center’s design this month and plans to break ground later this year, Allen said.

The Education Center at the Wall will be a state-of-the-art visitors’ center and education facility, he said. Visitors will see a timeline that describes the Vietnam War era.

“It was a very divisive time in American history,” Allen said. “We’re going to tell the story of the Vietnam War and put it into historical context — What was America like then? What were people concerned about? What was all the noise about? — and tell the story both on the home front and the battle front.”

The center also will display some of the 300,000 items that have been left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial over the years, Allen said. Every day, National Park Service rangers collect the items, which are stored in Maryland.

Items include Purple Hearts from World War I, letters from children who never met their fathers, a pack of cigarettes for a fallen comrade and a motorcycle that won’t be started until all Vietnam prisoners of war are accounted for, Allen said.

“Part of the reason behind this education center is to get those items out … and display them for the public to see,” Allen said.

Although there will be a focus on the Vietnam War, the center will celebrate American military service from Bunker Hill to Baghdad, Allen said.

“By putting that (Vietnam) war into historical context as one of America’s conflicts, we’re going to be able to tell a bigger story and celebrate service in a bigger way,” he said.

The Education Center at the Wall is the “final mission” for Scruggs, a Vietnam veteran from Maryland who received a Purple Heart, Allen said. Scruggs also pushed for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which opened in 1982 and is marking its 30th anniversary this year.

“He came home and realized that the war was not—and the warriors in particular were not—being properly remembered and decided the National Mall was the place to do this,” Allen said.

About 3.5 million people now visit the wall per year, he said.

Supporters of the Education Center at the Wall hope it will also be a popular tourist destination.

“This will provide a very meaningful and significant learning experience for people,” Scruggs said of the center. “It will celebrate honor and duty, courage and integrity of the soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War.”

—————– 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund wants to collect a photo of each veteran named on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., to use in a future exhibit. Here is how their effort is going so far: 

South Dakota

Total Casualties: 193

# of Photos Collected: 182

# of Photos Still Needed: 11 

Minnesota

Total Casualties: 1,075

# of Photos Collected: 452

# of Photos Still Needed: 623 

Wisconsin

Total Casualties: 1,160

# of Photos Collected: 556

# of Photos Still Needed: 604 

Montana

Total Casualties: 266

# of Photos Collected: 117

# of Photos Still Needed: 149 

North Dakota

Total Casualties: 198

# of Photos Collected: 196

# of Photos Still Needed: 2 

U.S.

Total Casualties: 58,282

# of Photos Collected: 27,644

# of Photos Still Needed: 30,638 

*Note: Numbers are as of July 16

Source: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund 

North Dakota Vietnam veteran photos still needed 

Harold Edward Berg Jr.

Date of Casualty: 2/3/1967

Home of Record: Rhame, N.D.

Branch of Service: Army

Casualty Country: South Vietnam

Casualty Province: Binh Dinh 

David Allen Larson

Date of Casualty:  2/27/1970

Home of Record: Belcourt, N.D.

Branch of Service: Army

Casualty Country: South Vietnam

Casualty Province: Binh Dinh 

How to submit photos

You can submit a photo two ways. If you have a digital copy, you can upload the photo at http://www.vvmf.org/submit_other.

You can also mail a copy of the photo. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund does not want original photos and cannot be responsible for returning photos. When having the photo copied, ask the photo professional to make it the highest quality possible, use a glossy finish and reproduce the photo at an 8 x 10 size, if possible.

Be sure to include the photo submission form (found at the above website), and please indicate on the front of the envelope that a photo is enclosed. Mail to:

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Attn: Call for Photos

2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 104

Washington, D.C. 20037

For more information about how to add a photograph to the collection, please contact the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund at (202) 393-0090. 

How to view veteran photos/profiles

To view profiles of all veterans included in this project and see photos already submitted, visit http://www.buildthecenter.vvmf.org/. Click on Search the Wall and then Start Your Search. You can search by state to see the full list of veteran profiles to click on. You can also enter more specific information (city, name, etc.) to narrow your search.

You can also leave a comment as a tribute or remembrance.

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