Vietnam veteran: New memorial needs your photos of those who served in war

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, February 26, 2014

JANESVILLE—Two worn, laminated photos in Bill Williams' wallet are nearly 50 years old.

The Janesville Vietnam veteran always carries the faded, moisture-damaged black-and-white pictures of his fallen Army comrades.

Williams served with John Paul Crandall, 22, from Aurora, Ill., and Richard Gene Wormdahl, 21, from Sugar Grove, Ill., from 1966-67.

"We were in the same platoon, same squad," he said.

The pictures capture the day they decided to put on their dress uniforms, go to their military base post exchange and have their photos taken.

"I'm the only one who made it back," said Williams, 68.

He doesn't go a day without thinking about the men or Vietnam.

That's why Williams submitted their photos along with five others—classmates and those he fought with--to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. The nonprofit organization is raising money to build the Education Center at The Wall in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

He wants to encourage others to do the same.

"If we get the information out, more pictures will be sent, and the Vietnam Memorial will have a picture of every name," he said.

The Wall of Faces contains information on 18 Janesville Vietnam veterans, but two don't have photos: Alvin L. Halverson, who died Feb. 10, 1970, and David P. Hellenbrand, whose date of casualty is reported as Dec. 1, 1968.

Construction is planned to start this year on the Education Center at The Wall that will feature a digital display of photographs of the fallen, exhibits containing some of the more than 400,000 remembrances left at The Wall, as well as other visuals and narratives recounting the nature of combat in Vietnam.

Most who visit The Wall know little about those who served, but Williams said the education center would help fill that void.

It will be a place to reflect, remember and honor these soldiers plus put a face with their names, he said.

"In my lifetime I will never forget them," Williams said.

"I don't want others to forget them."

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