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Volunteers located a photo of every service member whose name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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After nearly 21 years, a group of hardworking volunteers, including Steve and Annie Delp of Culpeper County, have located a photo of every serviceman whose name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

That means each of the 58,281 people on The Wall has “at least one photo helping to tell more of the story behind the name,” said Tim Tetz, outreach director for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which founded the memorial. “We still have a lot of work to do as we look to improve the (quality of photos)…but today we celebrate the longest company in the history of our organization.”

Tetz sent the announcement Aug. 9 to the Delps and others who had made it their mission to find photos of those killed in action more than half a century ago.

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Steve Delp was overjoyed and shared the news with his wife, but she was unable to grasp the meaning. In what seems like one of life’s cruel twists and turns, the woman who worked so hard to find the faces of the lost lost herself.

Annie Delp has dementia and has lived at Poet’s Walk, a memory care center in Fredericksburg, for two years. During a recent interview, she sat on an overstuffed sofa, near her husband, and cradled a doll.

If she knew the online Wall of Faces had grown to include images of everyone – although some were little more than Xerox copies or blurred faces – her husband can barely imagine her response.

“Oh my God, she would go crazy,” he said. “She was a very strong and very open person, she came in and told people what to do.”

Annie Delp was so interested in finding photos of people killed in Vietnam because she is both the daughter and wife of army veterans. His father was a trainer in the cavalry, posted to various stations in Europe before and after World War II. Early exposure to horses, in Salzburg, Austria, sparked an interest that lasted much of her life, as she and her husband previously ran the Eagle Hill Equine Rescue in Culpeper.

Steve Delp commanded an engineering company in Vietnam, a unit that worked building bridges one week and then had to fight as infantry the next when the Tet Offensive hit. He spent 20 years in the service, as an intelligence officer in Vietnam and military attaché in Korea, and another 20 years in the private sector.

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Shortly after his second retirement, he began working as a senior outreach advisor to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which built the memorial wall 40 years ago.

In 2001, the VVMF embarked on a new mission: an educational center that would house the Wall of Faces, the thousands of photographs of soldiers who died in Vietnam.

The silhouette of a visitor is projected onto the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, during Memorial Day celebrations.
(STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Delps got involved in the years that followed, and on the weekends packed up their farm truck and headed to meetings for Vietnam veterans. They talked about the effort to find a photo of a deceased veteran and encouraged others to scour photo albums for pictures of their buddies.

“The more we kept collecting photos, the more interested we were both in doing it because there were so many holes to fill,” Steve Delp said.

On one of their road trips, someone gave them a pocket New Testament that had belonged to Johnny L. Perkins, a company doctor believed to be from Texas. It is dated November 29, 1965.

Inside the cover are two columns, written in blue ink. The first column lists 30 names – simple entries such as “Pfc. Musto”, “Sgt. Doss”, or “Lt. Hunter”. A second column includes a date.

The Delps surmised that the doctor kept a record of these, either with his 4th Infantry Division unit or in his custody, when they died. They researched each list and found that 25 of the 30 men named had been killed in action. All of them have at least one good photo on the wall of faces.

“I got the biggest kick out of it, and so did she,” Steve Delp said.

The Delps continued their mission between 2013 and 2018. He was working for VVMF during this period and she volunteered. Annie Delp handed out her card everywhere she went, talking with people on the project and encouraging them to call her if they found any photos. She visited local libraries and museums, poring over yearbooks.

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“When you start putting a face to a name, it makes a huge difference,” she said in an August 2015 article in The Free Lance – Star.

Norman Murray, a Vietnam veteran who lives near Buffalo, New York, attended a Veterans Day ceremony at the wall in 2014 and met Annie Delp. She told him about the group’s efforts to build a life story for each name on the wall, “to ensure that current and future generations can understand and honor the sacrifices of all who have served,” she said. he writes in an email.

“Ann and the work she was leading was an inspiration to me,” he added. “She made me feel the importance of remembering everyone we’ve lost.”

Murray discovered that 451 names on The Wall belonged to people in eight western New York counties, and at that time more than 150 had no photo. He began stalking families and reading newspaper clippings, sharing his mission with a class from Buffalo State College, reporters from the Buffalo News and another researcher “who had quietly collected the obituaries of the dead,” according to VVMF.

Jim Knotts, the group’s chairman and chief executive, said the Delps were responsible for collecting thousands of photos and Steve Delp processed many of them while working at VVMF.

“It’s inspiring to see people who care so much, who engage so completely, who donate time, talent and treasure to help others,” Knotts said.

Steve Delp continues to refine the stitched photos. He recently started going through entries, looking at photos and biographies of everyone who was killed on a given date. The evening after an interview with The Free Lance–Star, he drove to his home in Culpeper and was reviewing the website when he came across the name Dennis John Bullock.

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“Oh my God, he was two classes behind me at Montoursville High School in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, in the middle of nowhere,” Steve Delp said in a phone message. “I forgot about that, and I’m looking at his picture right now, and it’s like, holy cow, Denny.”

Steve Delp encourages those who lost loved ones in the Vietnam War to check out the Wall of Faces at vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces. There is an option to submit photos if people have better photos than what is shown or if they want to add more images.