Vietnam Wall Misspelled Name
January 4, 2012 by staff
Vietnam Wall Misspelled Name, If not for a cold day, hot coffee and a large headline in Tuesday’s News-Leader, Steve Harden Phillips of Bentonville, Ark., might never have learned about two soldiers trying to correct his father’s misspelled name on the Vietnam Memorial.
Steve’s sister-in-law, Michelle Patterson of Fair Grove, stumbled upon the News-Leader’s story Tuesday morning when she ran in to a convenience store for coffee. Glancing down at a stack of newspapers on the counter, she was surprised to recognize a name emblazoned across the front page — Stephen H. Phillips.
It gives her goosebumps to reflect on the lucky timing, she said. It was just coincidence that she saw it, and since she didn’t have her glasses on, “if it was any smaller type, or it was any other place in the paper, I never would have seen it.”
She told her husband, James, and they contacted Steve, who reached out to the News-Leader. James and Steve also have a sister, Melissa Patterson, who lives in Springfield.
Michelle Patterson said her husband and his sister grew up hearing often about their half brother’s father lost to war. He was called “Big Steve” and their brother was “Little Steve.”
“My husband’s father was in the military, and they made a point of talking about him,” she said.
Steve Phillips, 46, was known as “Bear” at Kickapoo High School and served in the Army for 21 years before retiring in 2006.
Phillips –who has three sons at home and a grown daughter and two grandchildren in Springfield — has a sizable collection of photos, documents and news articles about his father,much of which he’s made digital.
Starting in the 1990s, he tried for eight or nine years to get his father’s misspelled name corrected. Even if the granite wall couldn’t be fixed, he hoped that related materials could be changed. After contacting numerous people, nothing was done.
“Gist of it, they already made up the moving wall, and already had all those programs printed out and the big books. And if they were to change it, they would have to go back and change everything,” he recalls being told.
He said he finally gave up after his last hope — a contact at the Pentagon –was injured in the events of Sept. 11, 2001, “and I didn’t want to bug him anymore.”
As the only son of an only son, and “being one of the last Phillips alive, I figured I was doing it for the kids,” he said of his efforts. “I got his flag and his pictures, and the only other thing was his name on the wall.”
That’s why learning about the news story –and the soldiers’ efforts — meant so much.
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