Fallen Soldier’s Name Misspelled on Vietnam Memorial

The error has now been fixed online, but the original mixup is still set in stone.

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Sgt. Stephen Hiett Phillips of Springfield, Mo. is one of 58,000 fallen soldiers honored with his name carved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. However, fellow veterans argue his recognition is tainted by a glaring spelling error. His first name reads: “SHEPHEN.”

Phillips was only 23 and a father-to-be when he was killed during small arms fire in South Vietnam on July 18, 1965 — only two days after he arrived in the country. On Tuesday, two soldiers from Phillips’ regiment told the News-Leader, Phillips’ local paper, they are demanding the mistake be amended.

“One doesn’t honor a person by misspelling their name,” said Pete Neumann, a veteran who served in a neighboring company, the 1st Infantry Division’s 18th Regiment.

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Neumann told the News-Leader he contacted several federal agencies and nonprofits to fix the error, but remained unsuccessful. He sent correction requests to the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Fort Knox, Ky. and the National Park Service that maintains the memorial, but no response.

But the media attention at least partly helped the cause. After receiving a message from the News-Leader, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund called the paper to say Stephen H. Phillips’ name was corrected in their online database. Lee Allen, the fund’s director of communications, could not tell the News-Leader if a change to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is possible, but reported the VVMF will try to help correct the Department of Defense’s official record.

The News-Leader reports the original misspelling stems from a January 1967 Combat Area Casualties Current File which is now a digital list of war casualties in the National Archives. The list was referred by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. when the names were compiled for the memorial. Phillips’ name is spelled correctly on his headstone at the Springfield National Cemetery.

Although both Neumann and Thompson are resigned to the fact the error will likely remain unchanged on the memorial, they always hoped it would be rendered online.

“Maybe they can’t buff out the ‘H’ and sandblast a ‘T’ in its place — I don’t know enough about masonry — but at least acknowledge it on the (online) tribute card that comes with it,” said Neumann.

Thanks to their persistence, Phillips’ memory will be honored in a manner they see fit.

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