Andrew Johnson at son's grave

National Newspaper Association (NNA) President Andrew Johnson, whose son David was killed in Afghanistan, posed for a photo at his son’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. Johnson is leading an effort to find the missing photos of killed military members listed on the Wall in Washington DC.

Community newspapers can reach and engage the communities they serve like no other print or online vehicle can.

This unique skill was put to good use starting in March 2014 when the National Newspaper Association (NNA) began to utilize the support of community newspapers to help the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Wall of Faces project find the missing photos of killed military members listed on the Wall.

Over 6 million of the government’s military records were lost in a 1973 fire in St. Louis, Missouri, so the only way to locate the photos was to track them down in communities across the country.

At that time, over 24,000 photos were missing out of the more than 58,300 names on the Wall.

Only one state, Wyoming, had found all of its photos at that time.

Newspapers across the country joined the effort to find the photos. In most cases, the local paper would list the names of service members who were missing a photo; then community residents would bring photos to the paper.

Many state newspaper associations helped by facilitating the effort to get the names of the missing to the right newspapers. For difficult-to-find photos, instructors and students from journalism schools across the country have helped find photos (even photos for other states).

For example, in 2015, students from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Journalism School, under the direction of instructor Jessica McBride, helped find more than 60 Wisconsin photos; and they recently helped find missing photos from Ohio, which is now complete.

Fast forward to April 2019, and there are less than 1,300 missing photos, and 38 states have complete listings with photos.

No other media have been able to produce such results. Community newspapers in the remaining 11 states (plus the Washington D.C. area) are in a special position to help complete this project and help honor fallen U.S. military service members who fought in Vietnam.

With Memorial Day just around the corner, this is the perfect time to finish the effort. Memorial Day is the time to honor and remember those military members

who gave all for our country. This particular project is near and dear to me since my own son, 1LT David Johnson, was KIA in Afghanistan in 2012.

Not having a photo of him or not honoring his service, along with all who gave their lives, is beyond my imagination.

There is nothing better in a Memorial Day edition than stories about local heroes, plus a call to action — enlist a community to help honor local military heroes by finding their photos. This effort is a way newspapers can truly make a difference in preserving the memory of the fallen for future generations of all Americans.

I call on community newspapers (in the 11 states), related newspaper associations and journalism schools to make this Memorial Day edition extra special by finding the remaining missing photos and telling the stories about our heroes.

It is something community newspapers can do that no one else can do. Please download a list of veterans from your state missing photos here:

For specific information on how to help, please contact:

NNA: Kate Richardson at or 217-820-0212

Newspaper Association Managers: Beth Bennett at

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund: Heidi Zimmerman at

Student journalism: Jessica McBride at or


And I’d love to hear your thoughts — or 920-387-2211.

Johnson, publisher of the Dodge County Pionier, is the president of the National Newspaper Association (NNA) for 2018-19. The NNA Convention will be held in Milwaukee this fall.

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