It was a treasure hunt of sorts that took more than four years and involved gathering 398 pieces of paper that were at least 40 years old.
But the completed project, overseen by Vietnam veterans Art Canales of Santa Fe with an assist by Art DeVargas of Albuquerque, does more than put faces with the names of New Mexico servicemen who died in the Vietnam War.
It makes real the sacrifice and cost of that war.
When the photo of Army Sgt. Bobby Joe Martinez of Fort Wingate came in last month, it made New Mexico the first state to obtain a photo of every one of its servicemen who died in that controversial war.
From eastern New Mexico, those photos include:
• Jimmy Hohstadt, Daniel Martinez, Freddie Joe Roberts, Ruben Rubio, David Stoll and Harvie Winkles from Curry County.
• Andrew Pacheco, Francisco Garcia, Ramon Ortega and Sam Eggert from Quay County.
• Jerry Bryant, Harry Dyer, Joe Shaw, Lloyd Smith and Paul Wolfe from Roosevelt County.
It’s part of a nationwide campaign by the Vietnam Veterans of America to collect and display photos of all U.S. servicemen who died in the war at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s planned $115 million Education Center in Washington, D.C.
The center is being designed to complement The Wall, the famous black granite memorial with the names of all 58,272 fatalities.
The 398 photos of New Mexico’s Vietnam War dead will be on display through March at the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial visitors center at 1100 Louisiana SE, and all photos are posted at:
Canales and DeVargas deserve credit for going above and beyond the call of duty in recognizing their fellow troops. DeVargas says “we were the guys knocking on the doors, but we had a lot of help from everyone … families, friends, veterans. And, for whatever reasons, we stuck with it.”
Sticking with it is something our military veterans know more than a little about. And now, thanks to the efforts of Canales, DeVargas and others like them across the country, the rest of the world will know more about those servicemen we lost in Vietnam.
— Albuquerque Journal and Clovis Media Inc.