Virginia man joins effort to build Education Center

Waynesboro veteran Michael Harris is leading local efforts to recognize the 22 service members from the Augusta County, Va. area whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Harris was one of hundreds of the area’s youth in the late 1960s. He was inspired to serve by people like his father in a war few understood or supported. He enlisted in the Air Force, joining thousands during the Vietnam War. Upon returning to Virginia, he joined the Virginia State Police and rose quickly up its ranks.

“I never forgot the men and women I served with,” Harris said. “I always was grateful that I was able to come home.”

Air Force Capt. Woodrow Fitzgerald from Staunton was the first local casualty on Oct. 24, 1963. Army Spc. Franklin Breckenridge was the last who made the ultimate sacrifice on Nov. 28, 1970.

“I heard about the Faces Never Forgotten program with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Through them, I learned we had an opportunity to honor these guys,” Harris said.

The Faces Never Forgotten program attempts to locate and provide photographs of each of the service members honored on The Wall. The program also includes an effort to raise money to fund the construction of the Education Center at The Wall so that those photos and stories can be displayed and highlighted for the millions who visit The Wall.

“I approached my friends at American Legion Post 340 and they enthusiastically said they’d help,” said Harris. He hopes to meet with other veteran and community organizations to continue efforts.

“Together, we can all get out to find the photographs of these guys and make sure we preserve their stories for future generations,” said Harris. VVMF has collected eight of the 22 names from the Augusta County area.

“They had the ceremonial groundbreaking on Nov. 28 at the site of the Education Center,” said Harris. The ceremony was the beginning of a final effort to raise the remaining $30 million needed to begin construction. Harris has pledged to raise $22,000 in honor of Augusta County’s fallen.

“They’re hell-bent to get that center open in 2014 and I’m going to make certain we don’t forget all that our boys gave,” Harris said.

If you would like to donate in memory of the 22 names from Augusta County, click here. To learn more about the Faces Never Forgotten campaign, click here.