It’s called the ‘Wall of Faces’ and will be a new way to remember the men killed in action during the Vietnam War. 58 thousand pictures will be displayed in Washington D.C. when the project is complete. One man is determined to locate all of our local Florida veteran pictures, but needs help to fill in the blanks.
“We started back in February 2016,” John Thomstratter, a Vietnam Veteran himself, explained he started volunteering to help collect pictures more than a year ago.
Thomstratter, thinking it was a good idea and project for his fellow soldiers in the Village, FL, decided to help.
“We are making great progress, by February of this year we have over 500 pictures,” Thomastratter said he started with the task of finding 778 photos to put the respective soldiers names.
But it hasn’t been easy. Although he served in the same war, Thomstratter wasn’t on the front line and hasn’t come across any pictures of men that he served with. Still, the stories behind the search haven’t been emotionally easier either.
“Now this fellow was Sergeant Brown he was from Orange County, I found the story where he had saved a Vietnamese child, he was drowning, about a week or two before he was killed,” showing the picture he found in a news clipping from when the soldier was killed in action.
Today, Thomstratter still has more than 200 photos to track down.
Many, he finds using newspaper.com, genealogy websites, the public libraries and yearbooks.
Although, in rare occasions the only photograph a soldier may have left is the one printed on his headstone. In those cases, Thomstratter respectively takes a clear picture to add to the nation-wide database the Wall of Faces is collecting to present online.
“Here is another sad story, his wife's brother was killed in a rail road crossing just a few weeks before he died,” the amateur sleuth showing another photo he found using a newspaper website.
Across the country, more than 50,000 photos have been discovered, with only 6,000 left to find before the memorial will be complete.
Thomstratter, is making it his mission to find those left floating around. Including 25 men’s pictures still missing in Hillsborough and 6 that are still left faceless in Polk County.
“They went through basic training in and advanced training and were shipped over to Vietnam within months and some of them died after being there for such a short period of time.
For John, putting a face to a name isn’t easy and matching 778 unfamiliar faces to victims of war, is hard. But for the fellow soldier, it’s not work, it’s an honor to help America remember those who fought for our freedom.
For a complete list of the pictures that need to be found, or to add a picture yourself follow this link: http://www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/.