'Faces with Names' project is grassroots effort to collect photos of local Vietnam vets

veterans statue

Vietnam veterans memorial statue in Washington, D.C.

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(Oct. 18, 2010)--UTSA President Ricardo Romo, with the assistance of the Institute of Texan Cultures, community leaders and San Antonio grassroots organizations, has announced the "Faces with Names" project, an effort to collect photographs of more than 300 San Antonio and Bexar County service members killed or missing in Vietnam.

At San Antonio's Vietnam War Memorial on Oct. 4, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez joined UTSA, the Institute of Texan Cultures and community leaders in a call for public participation in the "Faces with Names" project, which localizes a national effort to gather photos and stories from more than 58,000 names that appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. A forthcoming Education Center at The Wall will display the images.

Peter Holt, owner of the San Antonio Spurs and a Vietnam veteran, pledged support to the education center with a $1 million Texas Challenge donation-matching program. Additionally, Holt issued a challenge to collect the images of all Texas service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.

In San Antonio, Holt asked for help from Romo in early 2010 to bolster community support for the project, particularly in gathering images of the fallen. "The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a stark and solemn reminder of the service and sacrifice our service members made in a difficult period of our nation's history," said Romo. "Behind every name inscribed on The Wall is a face -- a person with a story. UTSA is proud to play a part in honoring these individuals."

Known for his background in the field of history and connections to the San Antonio community, Romo took on the project, asking classmate and Vietnam veteran Mark Marquez to begin searching at Fox Tech High School. Classmates Rosalinda Berlanga and Charlie Calderon reached out to other local high schools, some of which had Vietnam memorials built on their campuses.

Enlisting the support of J.R. Garza, commander of the Alamo Chapter 5 Disabled America Veterans, and Dan Medrano, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 366, research efforts turned to San Antonio's veteran community, which has memorialized several comrades in arms.

The volunteer research group has located approximately 310 names of service members from San Antonio and Bexar County killed or missing in Vietnam, and Calderon began to compile a database. Seeking a central location to gather materials, Romo offered the Institute of Texan Cultures, a UTSA facility known for its historic photo archives.

Through the research group's initial efforts, almost one third of the database has been completed with photos. This appeal to the community aims to compile the remaining images and discover any individuals not found in earlier research. Ultimately, the goal is to gather the images, digitize them and send them to the Education Center at The Wall in Washington, D.C.

The "Faces with Names" project seeks any photos of the fallen service members, whether a high school yearbook photo, football team photo or uniformed military photo. Additionally, the institute will accept a short remembrance of a service member's life before entering the military.

The institute cannot accept original photos or other physical material. To compensate for this, families and friends are encouraged either to visit a local business that has a photo kiosk to have the image digitized, or attend a "Remembrance Day" event at the institute, where museum personnel will be available to scan photographs. An upcoming "Remembrance Day" will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 13.

Digitized images must be in JPG format and less than 200 pixels wide with the digital file 400K or smaller; e-mail images to faceswithnames@utsa.edu. The Institute of Texan Cultures set a goal of Saturday, Dec. 14 to complete the project. Read details on contributing materials to the project at TexanCultures.com/faces.

The Institute of Texan Cultures is on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. Durango Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m., Sunday. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.