Viril Lee Austin was far from home when he died.
The 24-year-old from St. Paul, Virginia was in southwest Vietnam when he was killed on March 19, 1967.
He died with the rank of SP4 (specialist) in the United States Army.
In D.C. at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall, Viril is memorialized on panel 16E, line 109. But there’s a problem: There isn’t a photo of Viril to help further memorialize him in an on-going project by the same group that maintains the Wall in D.C.
VVMF’s project, “Faces Never Forgotten,” is attempting to complete a virtual “wall of faces” to honor every soldier killed in the Vietnam War. Normally, this process could be completed through file photos of soldiers kept by the government, but those photos were destroyed in a fire.
Crowdsourcing has turned up a lot of the photos for the project since it began. But Viril Lee Austin is one of 134 soldiers from Virginia who are still missing a photo on the wall.
That’s why the Virginia Press Association is calling on its publishers and editors to help locate the remaining photos for Virginian soldiers killed in Vietnam.
Newspapers and press associations from around the country have helped locate missing photos for the project. They’ve done this by using information provided by VVMF. The organization has provided spreadsheets with soldiers’ information—name, date of birth, hometown, rank, branch of service and casualty date—in an attempt to bring missing photos to the surface.
With VVMF’s information, publishers have run articles, written editorials and created house ads to make their readers aware that fallen soldiers from their communities are missing photos in the digital exhibit. Along with running ads and editorial content, publishers have also sorted through archives to look for the missing photos.
“Our paper was able to find five of the seven soldiers in our county without photos, and one has since been found,” wrote Matt Paxton, publisher of the News-Gazette in Lexington.
“We went to our old files for obituary information to locate survivors, ran stories in the paper and house ads. We also ran stories when the families came forward with photos that talked about the loss that family felt. Most were appreciative that the newspaper and the community were interested in their fallen family member.”
VPA has taken VVFM’s list of Virginia soldiers still missing photos and broken them down into five regions—northern Virginia and the Valley, Southside, central Virginia, Hampton Roads and southwest Virginia.
Please follow this link to see how many soldiers from your area still need a photo. We encourage you to do anything you can to help further this project to completion.
“This is a great story that impacts our communities and has the potential to show the power of our newspapers by accomplishing this goal,” Paxton wrote.
Please contact William Lineberry if you have any questions, firstname.lastname@example.org.