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Names Added To Wall South

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Forty-two years after the end of the Vietnam War, the names of 140 Americans who died in that conflict are being placed on the Wall South in downtown Pensacola.

An employee with GLMCO Memorials in DeFuniak Springs, dressed in a protective hood and work gloves, began the final part of the project at the half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Company president Larry Mathews said the etching would be done in just a few hours.

“[They’re] very small letters, so they have to be matched,” said Mathews. “Once it’s produced it’s put into a piece of rubber. That rubber is applied to the granite, perfectly lined up to match what’s already there, and they’ll use sand to etch the letters into the granite.”

About ten pounds of sand is used, blasted onto the wall with air pressure of about 90 pounds per square inch.

The names are the first to be added since Wall South was opened in 1992. Retired Navy Capt. Butch Hansen, president of the Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, says they were found through painstaking research using multiple databases and various groups and volunteers.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Butch Hansen (Capt. USN-Ret.) addresses a small crowd watching the 140 names being etched onto the Wall South on Wednesday.

“In our database, when we tried to mesh the two, we weren’t getting very far; too many differences,” said Hansen. “So we ended up manually verifying every name on our wall. So now we’re pretty sure we have a definitive list of every name that’s not only on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., but in Pensacola also.”

Upon completion of the work, the number of service members on the wall will total 58,315. And Hansen says that may not be the end.

“There may be additional people that pass away, and it’s deemed that it was their injuries from the war that caused them to die,” Hansen said.

Funding for the project is from a grant by the Bear Family Foundation. For GLMCO’s Larry Mathews, this is a project that hits close to home.

“My dad served in the military, [but] he never served in wartime; my son currently is serving as a Marine Reservist,” said Mathews. “We love to support our veterans in anyway that we can.”

The 140 newly added names on Panel 335, says Wall South President Butch Hansen, will be formally unveiled as part of the Memorial Day ceremony in May.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.