Photos of local Vietnam veterans needed for Wall of Faces project

Posted 2/2/18

On Nov. 17, 1965, Sgt. Roger Stone of Parrish became Walker County’s first casualty in the Vietnam War.

Stone, 22, was killed in an ambush of the 1st Cavalry Division in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley — the first major battle between American soldiers and the North Vietnamese in South Vietnam.

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Photos of local Vietnam veterans needed for Wall of Faces project

Posted

On Nov. 17, 1965, Sgt. Roger Stone of Parrish became Walker County’s first casualty in the Vietnam War.

Stone, 22, was killed in an ambush of the 1st Cavalry Division in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley — the first major battle between American soldiers and the North Vietnamese in South Vietnam.

I can find no mention of his death in the Daily Mountain Eagle, though a wire report of the battle was the lead story in the Nov. 18 edition.

On the day that Stone was killed, the Eagle published a poem from Private First Class James H. Uptain of Jasper titled “Does It Concern You?”

Here are the first and last stanzas, written at the start of a war that would ultimately claim the lives of 45 men from Walker County.

You sit at home and watch TV. You sip a refreshing cold ice tea.

The news comes on and then you hear the battle report of a casualty bier.

Then you view a far off land where men are dying in the sand.

A frown appears across your face. You’re tired of hearing about that place.

The days are hot, the nights are too. What wonders your ice tea would do.

We dream of that and sizzling steaks.

Then a nightmare shouts, we’ve ground to take.

Some will be heroes because they are brave.

Others will just get a wreath for their grave.

Stop and think for a moment or two. And ask, doesn’t it really concern you.

More than 50 years later, there is a concern that a new generation of Americans feels no personal connection to the Vietnam War.

That’s why an effort is underway to build an education center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the organization that built the Wall, is currently raising the $130 million necessary to construct the facility.

According to the group’s website, nearly half of the 5.6 million people who visit the Wall each year were born after it was constructed, and 60 percent of the U.S. population was not alive during the Vietnam War.

“To them, the more than 58,000 names etched in black granite represent faceless patriots without historical context,” the website states.

When the education center is built, the VVMF hopes to be able to include a photo of each soldier whose name appears on the wall.

The Wall of Faces project began in 2009. In January 2017, the 35th anniversary of the Wall, the 50,000th photo was submitted for the VVMF’s Wall of Faces project.

So far, 25 states have submitted photos for every fallen soldier listed on the Wall.

Alabama is still lacking 254 photos. When this week began, six of those missing photos were of former Walker County residents.

Leigh Evans, a teacher at Maddox Intermediate School, contacted the Daily Mountain Eagle about the Wall of Faces project last week. For more information about the project and the history teacher whose students have spent the last two years working to collect the missing photos, see Sunday’s Lifestyles section.

While researching that article, I spent some times in our archives looking up information about these fallen soldiers.

Here is what I found:

•Donald Williams, 24, of Sipsey was killed May 7, 1968. The Eagle reported his death on May 14 at the bottom of an article about the death of Walker County’s 12th Vietnam casualty, 21-year-old Sammy Smith of Cordova. Williams was survived by his mother, Hattie M. Meadows. He was the third Marine from Walker County to be killed in May 1968. The Eagle had reported the death of Sherron Harbison, 20, of Curry, on May 8.

•David Naramore Jr., 20, of Rose Hill, was killed on June 10, 1968. He was the fourth soldier from Walker County to be killed in 36 days. According to the Eagle’s report of his death, he had been in Vietnam since July 1967.

•William Pendley, 20, of Carbon Hill, was killed July 7, 1968. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Dodd. He was the county’s 16th war casualty and the second in the month of July. He had been in Vietnam for two months. He was engaged and had plans to marry when he returned from Vietnam. On July 2, he wrote a letter to his family which they received the day after being notified of his death.

•James Ray Moncrief, 19, of Cordova, was killed Aug. 18, 1968. He was the second soldier from Cordova to be killed within a week. The death of Milton Cook, also 19, had been reported on Aug. 19. Moncrief was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Virgil Moncrief. Before being drafted in August 1967, he had worked for the Cordova Water and Gas Board. He had been in Vietnam for six months.

•James Raynor, 21, of Empire, was killed on Aug. 29, 1968. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Raynor. He had been serving with the First Marine Division for six months. He was the 22nd soldier from Walker County to die in Vietnam.

• Larry Eugene Stephens, 21, was killed Jan. 8, 1969. No hometown is listed on the Wall of Faces website at www.vvmf.org. His death was not reported by the Daily Mountain Eagle.

On Thursday, the Eagle submitted photos of Pendley and Moncrief that were part of our archives, and those images are now part of the virtual Wall of Faces at www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces.

The VVMF is glad to accept mulitple photos of soldiers, and the fact that a photo has been submitted does not prevent anyone else from taking part in the project.

To submit a photo of any of these soldiers, contact Dr. Blake Busbin at wbbusbin@auburnschools.org.

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s features editor.