BARTOW, Fla. - It's a homecoming of sorts for Mulberry's own Vietnam veteran, Jesse Nixon.
Nixon was only 29 years-old when he was killed in action during the Vietnam War. He left behind his two daughters and a wife in January of 1971. Since then, his picture has been missing from public databases which keep track of fallen veterans.
"Anytime the call goes out to help someone who served our country I can’t I just have to get involved and see if I can help," Mary Tripp, a Polk County historian said.
So, when she received an email asking to help track down the last remaining Vietnam Veteran picture to complete a memorial project, Tripp was all in.
"I knew if anyone had the tools to find him that we would have them here in the library," Tripp said.
Her first search, through Microfilm. In the Mulberry Press, Jesse Nixon came to life. Tripp discovered the Vietnam Veteran attended Union Academy High School. But, back in the 1950's the school didn't have any yearbooks; that was a dead end. Tripp also found he used to work for Babcock Furniture in Bartow. Lastly, she found his obituary, but still no picture. It was through that obituary though, she was able to track down Nixon's one of two daughters.
"To know that he was killed in action over in Vietnam and probably the daughter who was kind enough to send me the photo never really got to know her father," Tripp said.
That's exactly why the Wall of Faces exists, to remember those many never even knew.
Thanks to a Florida man, Johnny Thomstatter, hundreds of Florida's soldiers' pictures have been found. Nixon's though, the last picture to round out Polk County's faces of fallen Vietnam Veterans.
"It’s a little bit sad but it’s also happy that I got the photo to the right place and the project is going to include Mr. Nixon," Tripp said.
The Wall of Faces is far from complete. It's a nationwide movement to locate all of America's Vietnam Veteran's photos.
Still more than four thousand photos are missing across the United States, and 123 in the state of Florida.
You can search the Wall of Faces database here: http://www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/