- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

Putting a face with a name is important to Jan C. Scruggs, the man responsible for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

That’s why Mr. Scruggs, a decorated Vietnam veteran who lobbied Congress 30 years ago for land to construct the monument, is intent on collecting photos of all 58,261 people whose names are etched into the memorial’s two black granite walls.

“This will use the emotion that touches our hearts, seeing the photographs of the people who gave their lives for this country during that war,” said Mr. Scruggs, who founded the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

“This has a larger and important national purpose, which is to use these men and women who gave their lives in Vietnam to teach about these values that our military has had for over 200 years. … That’s what’s exciting; this isn’t Vietnam memorial two, this is about a much larger national purpose.”

The pictures are to be displayed on each soldier’s birthday in the yet-to-be-built Education Center at the Wall as a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives during the conflict that lasted for five presidencies.

“A birthday is always a happy occasion, but these are people whose ability to have birthdays has been taken away,” said Mr. Scruggs, who served in the Army’s 199th Light Infantry Brigade. “They are forever young.”

Mr. Scruggs is in the process of raising funds to construct the center, which will be located across the street from the Wall. Mr. Scruggs said he and Peter Holt, who owns the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, have raised about $24 million — nearly a third of the $85 million goal.

The group is partnering with the National Park Service to build the center, which is expected to break ground in late 2011 with an anticipated 18-month construction period. The underground center is expected to increase visitation to the memorial by about 25 percent, with a projected 2 million to 3 million visitors to the center per year.

The memorial fund also is working with FedEx Office printing centers nationwide for photo scanning. About 11,000 photos have been collected so far. The group is reaching out to family members and loved ones first before heading to military branches to collect all of the pictures.

“It can be extraordinary because it brings things to life,” said Rick Weidman, of the Vietnam Veterans of America. “Particularly with young people, it’s important for them to visualize that [names on the Wall] belong to someone their own age. … It’s emotionally hard for people to do it, submit photos, but it’s important for people to do it, just like it’s important to try to find the families of friends who have died.”

Mr. Weidman, who served as an Army medic in Vietnam, said a friend is on the Wall.

“It will be quite moving [to see his picture],” he said. “It will mean a lot, but I think it will mean even more to his parents and to his family.”

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