The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) is attempting to locate a photo of all 58,286 soldiers listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., honoring those who died in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.
The group is building a new Education Center near the Wall on the National Mall, with construction planned to start in 2016 and be completed for a grand opening in 2019.
The building will include an electronic “Wall of Faces” corresponding to the names on the wall. So far, the VVMF has collected 34,000 of the photos and still needs to find approximately 24,000 more for those listed on the Wall. Soldiers who have died since 9/11 will also be honored in the new center.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial lists 13 persons with Portage County addresses, along with four others whose parents or other relatives lived in Portage County at the time of their deaths.
Sgt. 1st Class Gerald J. Bannach, 26, was the first Portage County victim of the war. The son of Ben and Rose Bannach, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Nha Trang, Vietnam, on Sept. 24, 1966.
A career Army man, Bannach had been in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division since May 1966. He grew up in Stevens Point and joined the Army in 1956 after serving in the National Guard since the age of 15.
He was survived by his wife, two children, his mother, five brothers and two sisters.
His name is located on Panel 11E, Line 8.
Pfc. Gary Dopp, 22, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Russell Dopp, town of Belmont, was a turret gunner and assistant driver of an armored personnel carrier that struck a mine on Sept. 25, 1966.
He grew up on his parents’ farm in Belmont in the southeastern corner of the county and graduated from WildRoseHigh School.
He was drafted into the Army and was in the 5th Mechanized Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, serving in Vietnam since that April.
He was survived by his parents, three brothers and two sisters.
His name is located on Panel 11E, Line 13.
Airman 1st Class Thomas H. Trebatoski, 21, the son of Stanley and Harriet Trebatoski, Stevens Point, was stationed in Udorn Air Base in Thailand on Oct. 2, 1966, when ammunition exploded, burning over 95 percent of his body.
He had enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from PacelliHigh School in 1963. He had been on special assignment, instructing Thai soldiers since March of 1966.
He was survived by his parents, four brothers and two sisters.
Although not a direct casualty in Vietnam, Trebatoski’s name was added to the memorial in 1986 after the definition of servicemen whose names could be included was changed.
His name is located on Panel 11E, Line 44.
Lance Cpl. Gerald W. Kropidlowski, 19, the son of Henry and Ruth Kropidlowski, Whiting, was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps when he died of gunshot wounds to the head and body from hostile fire in Quang Namprovince of Vietnam on Nov. 2, 1967.
He graduated from P.J.JacobsHigh School in 1966 and entered the Marines that October. He had been in Vietnam since March 1967 and was serving with the 2nd Platoon, 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marine Division.
He was survived by his parents and two sisters.
His name is located on Panel 29E, Line 11.
Pfc. Robert G. Zink, 21, the son of Herman and Catherine Zink, Stevens Point, was killed on June 19, 1968, while trying to reach wounded comrades in GiaDinhProvince in Vietnam.
Zink graduated from PacelliHigh School and entered the Army less than a year before his death. He was serving as a platoon medic with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Infantry Division.
He won the Bronze Star twice and the Purple Heart.
He was survived by his mother and four sisters.
His name is located on Panel 55W, Line 4.
Spc. 4 David S. Kossowski, 20, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Kossowski, died July 30, 1968, of wounds suffered in Vietnam eight months earlier.
A June 1966 graduate of P.J.JacobsHigh School, Kossowski entered the Army in September after graduation. He received head wounds in a barracks accident in Vietnam when a weapon discharged Dec. 5, 1967, less than four months after he arrived in the country. He never regained consciousness following the accident and died at WoodVeteransAdministrationHospital in Milwaukee.
He was survived by his parents and four sisters.
His name is located on Panel 50W, Line 36.
Sgt. Donald C. Lepak, 25, Amherst, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Lepak, was killed in action Nov. 30, 1968, during a firefight while on a combat operation in BinhDuongProvince in Vietnam. He was a member of the Wolfhounds of Company 1, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division.
A graduate of Amherst High School, he received a bachelor’s degree from Northland College in Ashland in June of 1967 and was drafted in October of that year. He arrived in Vietnam a year later and was a member of the 25th Infantry Division in the Saigan area. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
He was survived by his parents and two brothers.
His name is located on Panel 37W, Line 13.
Sgt. 1st Class Felix D. Knutson, 29, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Knutson, Nelsonville, was killed Sept. 4, 1969, while driving a Jeep that hit a land mine in DinhTuongProvince in Vietnam.
He entered the Army after graduating from AmherstHigh School in 1958. He was on his second tour of duty in Vietnam, serving his first from June 1967 to July 1968.
He was survived by his wife and two sons in Chicago, Ill., his mother, six brothers and two sisters.
His name is located at Panel 18W, Line 33.
Cpl. Ronald L. Gutke, 19, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gutke, Almond, drowned Sept. 19, 1969, while on a combat operation when he was swept away by the current during a river crossing in QuangTriProvince in Vietnam.
He began his tour in VietnamAug. 4, 1969.
His name is located at Panel 18W, Line 113.
Sgt. Kenneth J. Garski, 19, Stevens Point, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Garski, was killed in action in PhuocLongProvince in Vietnam on March 28, 1970.
He entered the Army in 1968 after attending P.J.JacobsHigh School. He was stationed first in Germany in 1969 and then sent to Vietnam on Sept. 19, 1969.
He was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism in ground combat, the Purple Heart and the Air Medal for distinguished service in more than 25 aerial missions over hostile territory.
He was survived by his parents and three sisters.
His name is located at Panel 12W, Line 51.
Quartermaster 1/C Joseph P. Jurgella Jr., 38, rural Stevens Point, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Jurgella, died of a heart attack in Phuoc Tuy Province in Vietnam on Oct. 25, 1970.
He grew up in PortageCounty and joined the Marine Corps in 1951, earning decorations seven times for his service in Korea.
After leaving the Marines in 1955, he returned to Stevens Point, working in the Stevens Point Police Department for about a year.
In 1957 he joined the Air Force and was decorated twice before his enlistment ended in 1961. He then joined the Navy, where he served until his death. He had been assigned to a swift boat in the River Patrol Division on his third tour of duty in Vietnam when he died.
He was survived by his wife, one son, his parents, two brothers and three sisters.
His name is on Panel 6W, Line 22.
Pfc. Clarence M. Suchon, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Suchon, Stevens Point, was killed in combat in QuangNamProvince in Vietnam on March 22, 1971.
He grew up in Stevens Point and attended P.J.JacobsHigh School. After working at Bake-Rite Baking Co., he entered the Army in May of 1970 and was sent to Vietnam that October, serving with the 31st Battalion, 196th Americal Division.
He was survived by his parents and two brothers.
His name is on Panel 4W, Line 69.
Chief Warrant Officer John A. Jelich, 26, son of Mr. and Mrs. Nick Jelich, Stevens Point, was killed in action on April 1, 1972, when his helicopter was shot down by hostile fire in TayNinhProvince in Vietnam. He was on his second tour of duty in Southeast Asia.
He grew up in Stevens Point, graduated from PacelliHigh School and attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
He entered the Army in 1967 and attended aviation school, receiving his wings in 1968. He served his first tour of duty in Vietnam from August 1968 to August 1969.
As a helicopter scout pilot, Jelich had been shot down several times while flying a light observation helicopter to search for Viet Cong, usually drawing initial fire for a heavily armed helicopter guarding it.
Jelich received three Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart with two clusters, a Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star from the Republic of South Vietnam and 36 air medals.
He was survived by his wife, one daughter, one son, his parents and three sisters.
His name is on Panel 2W, Line 126.
The names of four other men with PortageCounty connections also appear on the wall.
Cmdr. James La Haye, 41, died May 8, 1965, in an airplane crash in North Vietnam. He was a fixed-wing pilot and had lived in Stevens Point but more recently was a resident of Green Bay, when he died.
His name is on Panel 1E, Line 112.
Staff Sgt. George T. Murray, 38, died in a plane crash in Vietnam on June 17, 1967. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Murray, he grew up in Stevens Point, living with his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Stiles A. Martin, and graduated from P.J.JacobsHigh School in 1947.
He enlisted in the Army and made the military his career, serving for 18 years. His home of record when he died was Milwaukee.
He was survived by his wife, two sons, one daughter, his father and one sister.
His name is on Panel 21E, Line 124.
Spc. 5 Gene Howard, 24, was killed in action April 2, 1968, in Thua Thien Province of Vietnam. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Howard, lived in the town of New Hope when he was killed, but his home of record was Neenah and he was buried in Oshkosh.
His name is on Panel 47E, Line 39.
Cpl. Frank J. Strnad, 19, died June 22, 1968, of head and back wounds suffered two days earlier while on patrol duty in ThuaThienProvince in Vietnam. He had been in Vietnam since the previous September and had been wounded in February before returning to action.
He grew up in Lockport, Ill., and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Strnad, moved to the Junction City area after he joined the Marine Corps.
Survivors included his parents, two sisters and three brothers.
His name is on Panel 55W, Line 19.
More information about the project can be found at www.vvmf.org. People who have photos of those listed on the Memorial may send them to The Portage County Gazette, which in turn will forward them to the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.