The Mission To Find Utah’s Heroes
By Jan C. Scruggs
Mormons have seen combat in the military since the Mexican American War and indeed eleven have received the Medal of Honor. I had a Mormon friend while serving in Vietnam in 1969: Steve. The LDS faithful believe in the “Word of Wisdom” and therefore abstain from alcohol, coffee and tobacco. So Steve never drank or smoked. It was nice to have a sober person around when we were able to get a pallet of beer in a rear area. Good old Steve.
I have been honored to know a number of Mormons. I have found that they tend to be hard working, educated and family-oriented. Members of the Church of Latter-day Saints have been involved with VVMF since its inception; VVMF once had the Mormon Choir of Washington sing at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a Mormon named Richard Wirth, who was also Ronald Reagan’s pollster, gave the opening prayer at a Memorial Day Ceremony in the late 1980s.
I will be in Utah on Feb. 20 with veterans associations, officials from the LDS Church, some elected officials and the
Governor. I believe there is some unfinished business in Utah and for the LDS Church. Let me explain.
The Education Center at The Wall will display the photos of all Americans who died in Vietnam. We now have over half of those pictures.
Utah had 364 men who died in the military during the Vietnam War. We are missing 154 of their photos. The elected officials and the veterans groups want to help us get all of the photographs. They are committed to making this happen.
There are 589 Mormons who gave their lives in Vietnam and 306 of their photos are missing. I believe that the Church of the Latter-day Saints is a perfect entity to help collect these photographs for the Center as the Church has an inherent interest in genealogy.
I ask: does anyone remember Oran Bingham? This Mormon from Salt Lake City was killed in action a few days after his 20th birthday. He is buried in Salt Lake’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. But where is his photograph? Will he be remembered or forgotten in the years to come?