It took nearly five years of searching yearbooks, making hundreds of phone calls, and dealing with lots of dead ends, but volunteers have finally collected all 1,075 photos of Minnesota's Vietnam veterans who died in combat so they can be honored properly in Washington, D.C.
The final photo came in Wednesday night, Sgt. First Class Gerald Johnson, who joined the army out of Round Lake and died in Vietnam. Along with Herb Reckinger and his team of volunteers, an investigative journalism class from Wisconsin helped cap the project.
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"I know one person who was confident and called her uncle in Sioux City, and it was for Gerald Johnson, and all we had was a picture of his casket," Reckinger recalled.
On Wednesday night, the right photo finally arrived.
"It's just a great picture, you can make it bigger the resolution bigger, it will stand up real well," he said.
Reckinger in part credits his neighbors to the east.
Senior lecturer Jessica McBride teaches an investigative journalism class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and her class helped find the remaining 64 photos of Wisconsin's Vietnam vets, so when they were done, McBride decided to help Minnesota's effort. She called it the perfect project for her class.
"It's also just a stark reminder of everything that was lost and the humanity of these men and how much the families really still grieve," she said.
She helped find the photos of Army Sgt. Lawrence Harris from Wilmar, Marine Pvt. First Class Joseph Herron from St Paul, and finally, Sgt. Johnson from Round Lake.
His only daughter, Linda Auten, lives in South Carolina, and sent in her dad's photo.
"I'm so glad they are doing this, bringing it to light," Auten said over the phone.
Reckinger said even though the photo project is now complete, someone still needs to write all their biographies.