Project aims to put a face to every name on Vietnam Veterans Memorial

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After the death of a loved one, family and friends treasure the photos and mementos left behind. Collecting photos of members of the military who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country also is a way to honor them.

The Faces Never Forgotten Program is attempting to collect a photo for each person whose name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, commonly known as “The Wall.” To accomplish this goal, the program depends on submissions from friends and family members of the deceased.

The project is part of a larger effort to create an education center at the memorial, complete with a “virtual wall of faces” which would allow visitors to look up any name on the wall and find a photo and brief biographical information.

“The idea started when we as an organization came up with the idea for an education center at the wall,” said George DeCastro, Faces Never Forgotten program coordinator in Washington, D.C. “When that idea began and we began to fundraise and formulate a plan for it, one of the things we thought of was a display of photos for the wall.”

Photo collection began about 15 years ago, but efforts were increased a little more than a year ago when fundraising levels attained a level that looked like the education center would be a reality soon, he explained.

The group has about 16,000 more photographs to find before the display will be complete. Among the names missing photographs are two from Mecosta County: Thomas Fredrick Ray, Jr., and Michael D. Kelly, both of whom listed Big Rapids as their home at the time of their death.

The two men whose photos have not yet been submitted from Osceola County are Randy Gene Totten, whose home of record is Reed City; and Leo Leroy Kotke, whose home of record is listed as Marion. Pictures of three men are needed for Newaygo County natives: Richard J. Frazier, of White Cloud; Garry L. Reichard, of Newaygo; and Albert J. Vanderhaag, of Grant. No photos are missing for Lake County natives.

“The ideal photo we’re looking for is maybe twofold,” DeCastro said. “We’d like a high-quality portrait where you can really see the person’s face and we like people to submit a photo that shows who this person was, something they’re doing to show their personality. Obviously, reaching both goals in one photo can be a little difficult.”

When the project first began, the Department of Defense sent a large batch of photographs over, but it wasn’t very many considering the number of names on the wall, he continued.

“Official pictures aren’t available because records get lost, records get destroyed or maybe there’s an error in record-keeping,” DeCastro said. “Also, some people didn’t have an official picture taken. We do look often to see if we can find any new ones.”

Another difficulty with official photos is the chance the pictures will be digitized and easily searchable – and therefore, find-able – is very slim, he added. That’s where the general public comes into the picture.

“If they go to the Wall of Faces website and go to a specific person’s profile, there’s a big button to attach and send a photo, which then shows up in a queue for me to approve,” DeCastro said.

“On a slow day, I get 20 to 30 in my queue; on big days like in the summertime, especially around Memorial Day, over a weekend I can get 500 to 600 separate submissions,” he continued. “They’re not all distinct new photographs – some might be more than one for the same person, that kind of thing.”

Even though he is tasked with weeding out duplicates, DeCastro urges anyone who has a photo of someone on the wall to submit their photo.

“Even if they’re not sure if the person has a photo or not, or if they think they sent a photo in the past, I highly encourage anyone and everyone to send in a photo if they know someone listed on the wall,” he said.

Photos can be submitted through the website by typing a person’s name into the search bar and clicking the submit photo button on their profile. Photos also can be emailed directly to DeCastro at or copies of photos can be mailed to him at George DeCastro, Faces Never Forgotten, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, 1235 South Clark Street, Suite 910, Arlington, VA, 22202. Please do NOT send original photos as they cannot be returned.

Among the missing

These area servicemen are among the approximately 16,000 whose photos are still needed to complete the virtual Wall of Faces project of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

To learn if a specific person is missing a photo, visit website and type the name into the search bar. To find out which photos are missing from a specific area, go to the website, click “Advanced Search” and enter the county and state, then click the checkbox for “Does Not Have Photo.”

Mecosta County

Thomas Fredrick Ray, Jr., U.S. Army, CPL

Born: June 8, 1948

Died: Oct. 25, 1968

Home of Record: Big Rapids

Casualty Province: Quang Tri

Michael Dennis Kelly, U.S. Army, SSGT

Born: March 29, 1949

Died: Aug. 6, 1969

Home of Record: Big Rapids

Casualty Provice: Tay Ninh

Osceola County

Randy Gene Totten, U.S. Marine Corps, CPL

Born: May 22, 1945

Died: May 17, 1966

Home of Record: Reed City

Casualty Province: Thua Thien

Leo Leroy Kotke, U.S. Marine Corps, PFC

Born: Aug. 11, 1948

Died: Jan. 19, 1969

Home of Record: Marion

Casualty Province: Quang Nam

Newaygo County

Richard Jacob Frazier, U.S. Army, SP4

Born: Feb. 7, 1947

Died: Feb. 23, 1971

Home of Record: White Cloud

Casualty Province: Quang Tri

Garry Lee Reichard, U.S. Army, PFC

Born: Nov. 3, 1943

Died: Nov. 18, 1967

Home of Record: Newaygo

Casualty Province: Binh Duong

Albert Jacob Vanderhaag, U.S. Army, SGT

Born: Dec. 18, 1948

Died: Dec. 20, 1970

Home of Record: Grant

Casualty Province: Phuoc Long