OLYMPIA – If you have a photo of Air Force Col. Gallileo Bossio, of Deer Park, of Marine Pvt. 1st Class Rocky Hanna, of Addy, of Army Pvt. 1st Class Melvin East, of Colfax, or of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Koenig, of Spokane, veterans officials from both Washingtons would like to hear from you.
The same goes for photos of nearly 600 other Washington state service members killed in Vietnam, about half of all the state’s fatal casualties from that war.
Their names are on two walls, the state memorial on the Capitol campus and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
A new project planned as a feature for the National Mall is trying to locate a photo to go with each of the 58,272 men and women on the wall to be part of an Education Center near the memorial.
The photos will form a “virtual wall” inside the center where the display will change every day, Jan Scruggs, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation, said Friday in Olympia. Visitors will be given a dog tag when they enter the center, told behind every name on the wall is a face and a story, have a chance to trace the activities of the person named in the tag, then be asked to return to their community and “do something positive,” he said.
“It’s a legacy for the casualties of a different era,” Scruggs said. “The world of fighting wars seems to never end.”
National officials have about 22,000 photos so far. When they contacted the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, they found out the state had a head start. Director John Lee said the department already was trying to collect at least one photo of all 1,049 service members from Washington who died for the state archives.
The department put out the word through various veterans organizations, and so far it has about half. It used Scruggs’ visit to Olympia to put out another call, and family and friends of the fallen brought in nearly a dozen photos.
John Bastian of the Quinault Indian Tribe brought a photo of his brother, Roger Saux, who was an Army “tunnel rat” in Vietnam. He was the only member of the tribe killed in Vietnam, and the reservation’s Indian Health Care Center is named for him.
Randy Elmore had collected seven photos, including those of several high school classmates who went to Vietnam and didn’t come back. “These are people who should not be forgotten,” he said.