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Vietnam Fund is looking to collect photo of each vet on memorial wall

BISMARCK -- A future education center in Washington, D.C., will display photos of Minnesota soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Organizers of the Education Center at the Wall, which is slated to open Veterans Day 2014, are seeking the public's help so a photo of every U.S. soldier killed in Vietnam can be featured in an exhibit.

The digital photo exhibit will honor the 58,282 soldiers whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This includes 1,075 Minnesotans.

So far, they have collected 27,644 photos from around the country, including 452 from Minnesota. They still need 623 photos.

"These were mostly very young men who had hopes and dreams and lives that they left behind," said Lee Allen, spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C., which is behind the project. "We see them right now as a list of names, and we need to look beyond the name and scratch the surface and take a look at who they were."

Organizers have had great success getting photos from some states, such as North Dakota, but others, such as Minnesota, have been more challenging, Allen said.

"We hope to get as many (photos) as we can," he said. "We certainly don't have to have them all in order to open, but we're hoping we'll have a good majority of the photos by the time we open."

The education center also will feature photos of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Jan Scruggs, president and founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. These photos already have been collected.

The approximately $85 million education center will be located between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. The 35,000-square-foot center will be built underground so it doesn't obstruct the views of these memorials, Allen said.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund received approval for the center's design this month and plans to break ground later this year, Allen said.