Faces never forgotten: Local historian constructs pictorial record of local men killed in Vietnam War
Their names were Arnold Alvin Ades, Mark Mason Steeley, William Lee Christenson, Raymond Charles Huot Jr., William James Crockett, Gary Wayne Peterson and Marlyn Ronald Anderson. The first three were all members of the 1967 graduating class at Park High School.
All were born or lived in Cottage Grove or St. Paul Park. All served in the Vietnam War. None came back alive.
Their names are among the 58,000 inscribed on the wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
And thanks to local historian Herb Reckinger, there are photos to go with the names. The Cottage Grove volunteer is part of Faces Never Forgotten, a national crowdsourced effort to find a photo to match every name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Reckinger shared some of his research during a talk Nov. 10 at St. Paul Park City Hall. The event was organized by the South Washington County Heritage Society.
Using photos, letters and anecdotes from interviews with family members, Reckinger paid tribute to the short lives of the young men.
He showed a slide of Christenson, an Army sergeant killed July 7, 1970 in Tuyen Duc province. The photo of Christenson posing by his "Huey" helicopter, is stamped July 1970.
"He probably had less than a week to live when this photo was taken," Reckinger said.
Ades, known as a cut up at Park High School, looks shockingly young and freckle faced. A Marine, he was killed in killed in Quang Nam province July 3, 1968, eight days shy of his 19th birthday.
He erroneously listed St. Paul as his birthplace when he actually was born on Pleasant Avenue in St. Paul Park, not two blocks away from City Hall.
These kinds of errors are fairly common and complicated Reckinger's efforts to establish the actual hometown of some soldiers.
Kathy Price read a letter written by Marion Zuk, Ades's sister:
"Arnold Alvin Ades was our cherished brother and our son, and we have found it very difficult to write this piece. It has been hard for us to open that place in our hearts where we hide the pain; not the daily hurt of missing him, but the bitter heartache of living our lives without him."
Reckinger and his fellow volunteers, Diane Finneman of Forest Lake and Vietnam veteran Bob Ahles of St. Cloud, managed to find a photo for all 1,075 servicemen who listed Minnesota as their home of origin. Their photos are posted on the Wall of Faces website www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces. The sites also includes their branch of service, date of death and specific location on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Reckinger said they have only 1,822 photos left to match to names on the wall.
"A puzzle gets easier when you have just a few pieces left," he said. "This one's different. These get harder."