Twenty Black Washingtonians Honored by Anonymous Donor

A $20,000 gift from an anonymous donor will be used to endow the photos and stories of 20 African American soldiers from Washington, D.C., ensuring these vital pieces of history will be remembered and honored by visitors for generations to come.

“Since its inception in 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has striven to honor and venerate those who served in the Vietnam War; first by building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to record and memorialize their names, and now by collecting their photos and stories,” said Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the VVMF. “The photos still missing from our collection are proving to be the most difficult to obtain. They are the faces of men most in danger of being forgotten by history.”

The donor requested that VVMF apply the contribution to the Faces Never Forgotten campaign, an effort to put a face and a story to each of the 58,282 names on The Wall. This “rescue, recovery and remembrance” campaign is made possible by the generosity of those willing to help locate their photos and make financial contributions to help build the Education Center at The Wall.

To date, VVMF has collected photos for only 2,264 out of 7,264 fallen black soldiers. During the height of U.S. Printinvolvement, African Americans – who made up11 percent of the American population – were 12.6 percent of the soldiers in Vietnam.

This donation is made in honor of Theodore Beamon, Frederick Burge, Emmet Dougans, Edward Downs, Andrew Simmons Farley Jr., Roscoe Conklin Gray Jr., Samuel Lee Kemp, Ronald Williams Lewis,  Kynard Mills,  Kenneth Anderson Reynolds, Charles Samuel Ridout, Leo M. Sanders, Eddie Wendell Snipes, Darryl Taylor,  Jerome Thompson, Joseph Bernard Toler, Walter Ridgeway Winder Jr.,  Andrew Wright, James Wright Sr., and William Zeigler.

“It is clear that these casualties, who sacrificed all in service to this country, are under-represented in our photo collection,” Scruggs said. “These men, many of them drafted into service at a very young age, represent less than eight percent of the photos we have collected. If we fail to effectively reach the urban and minority communities, we cannot tell the full story of America’s sacrifice.”

Vietnam veteran Harry G. Robinson III, dean emeritus at Howard University and member of the VVMF board, said he is particularly concerned that one of these names be remembered. Theodore Beamon was his architecture classmate at Howard University in 1959. Robinson said that although race “took a back seat to the mission” in Vietnam, reaching minority communities is a challenge.

“Generally, while Vietnam and its lessons are still on the minds of Americans, there has been a national generational shift to the military in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Robinson said. “That attention is not transferable to Vietnam, even though the warrior values are the same. Given that, some of those communities may not be connected to social and digital media where the requests are being made.”

With this donation, and in honor of Black History Month, VVMF is determined to redouble its efforts to collect the photos and stories of those from urban and inner-city areas, so that the voices and memorial will be as diverse as the men and women who fought and died in Vietnam.