MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A project to preserve the legacy of Vietnam veterans killed in combat is nearly complete. College students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have been helping find photographs of those faces. But finding the final few is proving to be a difficult mission.
Inside UWM's Bolton Hall, the last student in the building is looking for one picture. Third year student Rachel Maidl completed her investigative journalism class a week ago. But the name of Willie Bedford keeps bringing her back.
"Willie Bedford died in an accident. He was working on this dam," said Maidl. "It's surprising, but it's also very sad because when you think about it, this brother and sister haven't seen a photo of their brother in -- I don't know how long."
States across the country have been collecting pictures of veterans killed in Vietnam. The reason it's been so difficult is a 1970s fire destroyed millions of military records -- which included photos of soldiers.
By the time Maidl's class got involved, 64 soldiers remained faceless.
"We have now whittled the number down, with the help of others, to three photos," said Jessica McBride.
McBride is the UWM lecturer who has been leading the journalism students to complete this task. But the remaining three names are elusive.
"All three of those men are from Milwaukee. Their names are Willie Bedford, and Rudolph Glenn Valenta and Carl Crowley," said McBride.
They have their names and some information. But for one reason or another, finding a picture has proven difficult.
Even though school is out, Maidl keeps looking. It's what happens when curriculum becomes a cause.
"I started things and I like to finish them. But also, I want to see what Willie looks like -- because I've been looking for him for a month and a half now. So I'm going to find a picture."
Below are the remaining three names on the list — names which have no pictures associated with them. If you have any pictures you believe are associated with the names below, you are encouraged to email Jessica McBride at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Willie Bedford, Milwaukee, U.S. Marine Corps, died May 3, 1970
- Carl L. Crowley, Milwaukee, U.S. Army, died November 4, 1969
- Rudolph G. Valenta, Milwaukee, U.S. Army, died October 8, 1971
An education center is being built near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The goal is to find and project the faces of all 58,300 soldiers who died in that war.