RICHMOND, Va. — Decades of history line the walls at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Virginia. Etched in stone are the names of nearly 1,500 Virginians who died during the Vietnam War.
Dr. Clay Mountcastle and his memorial staff are planning to present a story and a face along with the names.
The future exhibit is titled “50 Years Beyond: The Vietnam Veteran Experience.”
The researchers are accepting photographs taken of surviving Virginia veterans during the Vietnam War.
Mountcastle recalled flipping through his father’s old photo albums during his time serving in the military.
“I was a son of a Vietnam veteran,” the director of the South Belvidere Street memorial said. “I remember my dad’s photo albums kind of going through them and seeing the interesting pictures of him in places like the central highlands of Vietnam.”
The exhibit will open on January 27, 2023, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.
The event marks the official end of the United States' involvement in the war.
“We will take their candid photo and then we will have a professionally done portrait of them now,” Mountcastle said. “It’s going to be part of a comprehensive exhibit that captures their images. We will capture some of their stories. We will be able to interview them and record some of their thoughts just as life as a Vietnam veteran over the last 50 years.”
The memorial staff has interviewed countless Virginians who fought in Vietnam in the past. Those veterans shared stories.
“It’s always scary when somebody is shooting at you,” army veteran Philip Cary Shelton said. “I was flying one day and the guy I was flying with got killed. It made it kind of personal. His name is up on the wall out there right now.”
Mountcastle hoped to collect many more stories and memories from the war. The memorial will accept photos online and by mail until April 30.
“This is a way to say thank you that has been delayed in a lot of ways,” Mountcastle said. “An overdue thank you to those who served in Vietnam.”