One of the most divisive and controversial conflicts in American history is being highlighted through the lives of the 21 Randolph County men who died in Vietnam.
Blair resident Julia Gangloff created exhibits of the servicemen, all but five of whom served in the U.S. Army during the war, with their photos and stories featured on placards displayed in the Coulterville, Chester, Red Bud, Sparta and Steeleville libraries.
The exhibits will be on display through the end of this month and are based on Gangloff's e-book, "Randolph 21 Roll Call, The Final Chapter Of 21 Hometown Boys That Died In Vietnam."
"This is a story of the active community today," Gangloff said during an interview at the Chester Public Library. "This is the story of us. I want people to read these stories and realize these are not stories from 50 years ago, these are stories of today.
"This is an exhibit about us as a community."
The stories, compiled from newspaper clippings from the time, involve much pain and suffering, while memorializing the sacrifices of family. Virginia Parsons - whose son, Donald Eugene Parsons, died February 2, 1969 in Vietnam - took her own life within a year after learning her son was missing in action.
Donald Parson's remains didn't return home until 2002.
Charles Rader was the first Randolph County man to die in Vietnam on March 3, 1966, but seven others died in 1968, including two - Red Bud natives Leon Buehler and Daniel Kettman - just two days apart on April 4 and 6, respectively.
The closeness of the deaths and the impact of the loss of 21 sons to the county as a whole has deeply affected Gangloff. Seven of the soldiers were from Chester, with five from Sparta, three from Red Bud, two from Steeleville and one each from Coulterville, Prairie du Rocher, Ellis Grove and Evansville.
"I do it for their mothers," Gangloff said. "I'm kind of the universal mother. Their mothers aren't around to tell their stories, but I am."
In putting together her exhibit and her book, Gangloff spoke on four veterans - Phillip Summers, Steven Gerlach, Edward Huntley and Michael McAdoo - who were missing from the Department of Defense's database because of incorrect records.
"That really shook me because I started getting phone calls from people who said names weren't on the list," Gangloff said. "What are we going to do when there's nobody 50 years from now to make those calls? This has to be corrected today."
Surviving Vietnam veterans were vilified upon their return to the United States, as the unpopularity of the conflict at home caused deep scars that some historical experts doubt will ever fully heal.
"I feel so bad for the deceased veterans' spouses," Gangloff said. "There's nothing we can do to say 'we're sorry.'
"It's too late."
The Randolph County 21:
Listed in order of death
• Lt. Cpl. Charles Wayne Rader (Chester, U.S. Marines)
• SP5 Phillip Paul Summers (Chester, U.S. Army)
• 1st Lt. Steven Henry Gerlach (Steeleville, U.S. Army)
• PFC Leon Christ Buehler (Red Bud, U.S. Army)
• PFC Daniel Ray Ketterman (Red Bud, U.S. Marines)
• PSG Glenn Edward Nicholson (Red Bud, U.S. Army)
• PFC James Edward Cowell (Chester, U.S. Army)
• Pvt Terry Lee Douglas (Sparta, U.S. Army)
• Sgt. Alan Dale Trucano (Steeleville, U.S. Army)
• Sgt. Kenneth Charles Frazier (Chester, U.S. Army)
• Sgt. Robert Joe Bowlin (Sparta, U.S. Army)
• 1st Lt. Bruce Richard Welge (Chester, U.S. Army)
• LTC Donald Eugene Parsons (Sparta, U.S. Army)
• CWO Ivan Ivory Green (Coulterville, U.S. Army)
• PFC Frederick Allen Allmeyer (Chester, U.S. Army)
• Capt. Roger Dale Partington (Sparta, U.S. Marines)
• Cpl. Frank Dale Steibel (Prairie du Rocher, U.S. Marines)
• PFC Leonard Arnold Nitzsche (Ellis Grove, U.S. Army)
• SP4 Edward Glenn Huntley (Sparta, U.S. Army)
• PFC Michael Douglas McAdoo (Chester, U.S. Army)
• Cpl. Steven William Moll (Evansville, U.S. Marines)