When completed, a new education center will put a face to each of the 58,307 names inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
“I think Eddie would be all for it,” said Paula Vallejos, referring to her brother, Pfc. Edward Garcia, who was killed in Vietnam.
“He’d probably say, ‘Check this out,’” said another sister, Sandy Medina.
“He’d love it,” oldest sister Patsy Archuleta further remarked.
The three sisters recently came forward to add Garcia’s photo to the “Faces Never Forgotten” project, a national effort to incorporate a face and a story to each name inscribed on The Wall. They also agreed to sit down with The Journal to share memories of their brother, a man beloved and still missed today.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him,” said Medina.
Born in Cortez on May 19, 1948, Garcia volunteered to join the U.S. Army soon after high school. He completed basic training at Fort Ord, Calif.
“I visited him in California,” Archuleta said. “I remember him waving from the window of his barracks. That was the last time I saw him.”
In Vietnam about a month, Garcia, a member of the 1st Infantry Division, was injured while on a reconnaissance mission near Ben Cat, Vietnam, on March 1, 1969. Garcia suffered fragment wounds across his body, and died two days later. He was 21.
“As the reconnaissance progressed through high vegetation, a flank man sighted an enemy ambush and was mortally wounded warning his comrades,” a Department of Defense newspaper reported.
“Specialist Garcia attempted to crawl back to the flank to bring back the wounded man, but was forced back by heavy fire. Again he made the attempt, using another route, and again was driven back. While crawling forward a third time, he threw hand grenades and fired his automatic rifle to suppress enemy action. Although mortality wounded in this attempt, his efforts inspired his comrades and contributed to the successful outcome of the encounter.”
Garcia was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest decoration for valor; the Army Commendation Medal; Purple Heart; Good Conduct Medal; Combat Infantry Badge; National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal; Vietnam Campaign Ribbon and Sharpshooter Badge with automatic rifle and rifle bars. Vallejos said she accepted the military decorations from 1st Lt. Ronald M. Spielman on Aug. 4, 1969.
“You wonder what would have happened if he had survived,” an emotional Vallejos said. “A lifetime of possibilities.”
The quest for photos for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall included three other Montezuma County residents who died in Vietnam.
Army Pfc. John W. Saunders, Jr., a member of the 1st Infantry Division, died on Sept. 24, 1969. He was 21.
Army Master Sgt. Robert M. Liddell, a member of military assistance command, died on April 1, 1970. He was 37.
Army Spc. Robert E. Montoya, a medic with the 1st Calvary Division, died on Dec. 16, 1965. He was 24.
In September, Janna Hoehn of Hawaii contacted The Journal seeking friends or family members of the local Vietnam veterans to ensure their respective photographs were included with the planned “Faces Never Forgotten” project. After hearing the news, Garcia’s sister came forward with his photograph and their memories.
To date, volunteers have collected more than 42,000 photographs of the 58,307 men and women listed on the memorial.
“I have collected over 1,500 photos since May 2013,” said Hoehn.
“Putting a face with a name changes the whole dynamic of the Wall,” she continued. “It keeps our fallen heroes memories alive.”
Saunders’ photograph had been secured for the project. Since her local plea, Hoehn obtained a photo of Montoya from classmates.com. She’s still looking for a photo of Liddell.
In addition to veteran photographs, the education center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall will also display objects left at The Wall by families and friends, offer historical accounts of events that occurred on the battlefield and the home front and share the story of how the memorial became a site of individual grief and public mourning