Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

January 4, 2012 by staff 

Vietnam Veterans Memorial WallVietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Steve Phillips of Bentonville, Ark., was overcome with emotion Tuesday when he learned that two soldiers were trying to correct a decades-old error on behalf of the father he never met.

Phillips’ father, Stephen Hiett Phillips, was 23 when he was reported killed in action on July 18, 1965 –two days after arriving in Vietnam and 43 days before his son was born.

Although his name is correct on the Springfield National Cemetery headstone that marks where he rests, Phillips’ first name is inscribed as “SHEPHEN” on the black granite wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

For years, Steve tried to get his father’s misspelled name corrected, to no avail. Learning that others have been making a similar effort meant a lot.

It meant even more to learn their efforts may pay off and that a change to the memorial’s website has already been made.

“It makes me feel proud that the guys thought that much of my dad,” he said when reached at home.

Larry Thompson and Pete Neumann, who served in Phillips’ regiment, were appalled to learn of the error, repeated on various websites and copies of the Wall.

It appears to stem from a list of Vietnam war dead dating to January 1967.

“One doesn’t honor a person by misspelling their name,” said Pete Neumann in a Tuesday story. He had contacted a variety of federal agencies and nonprofits in an effort to correct the error — an effort that, like Phillips’ son Steve, he found frustrating.

In the digital realm, at least, a correction came quickly as a result of the soldiers’ efforts and the News-Leader’s story.

Staff from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund called the News-Leader on Tuesday to say the misspelling of Stephen H. Phillips’ name has been corrected in the group’s online database.

“We have made the change on our website, so ‘Shephen’ is now ‘Stephen,’” said Lee Allen, VVMF’s director of communications.

Allen said staff did some quick research after receiving a message the News-Leader left Friday and made the change Tuesday.

A search at now displays the correct spelling of Phillips’ first name.

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