Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 Mason Spirit.
On January 8, 1973, Lt. Col. William L. Deane of the U.S. Army was declared missing in action in Vietnam. His daughter, Sharon M. Deane, MA History ’10, was 8 at the time. For 27 years, the Deane family waited and hoped for answers. In April 2000, his remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery in a special ceremony recognizing his ultimate sacrifice.
Deane is part of a team that is racing against time to make sure that the United States honors and personally thanks as many as possible of the nearly nine million Americans who served as part of the nation’s effort during the Vietnam War.
Deane works in the history and legacy branch of the Vietnam War Commemoration, an organization created to implement then-President Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential proclamation announcing the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Deane sees her work as a way to honor her father as well as his comrades.
“It’s a privilege and an honor,” she says. “We’re just trying to reach Vietnam veterans and their families and say thank you on behalf of a grateful nation for your service and sacrifice.”
Deane serves in a dual role as exhibit project manager and education specialist. She also oversaw the development and installation of a permanent exhibit at the Pentagon that displays a timeline of the war, a full-scale diorama with two Huey helicopter cabins, touch screen interactives, historical video footage, and more than 300 Vietnam-era artifacts.
In April 2017, the project received the John Wesley Powell Prize for outstanding exhibit from the Society for History in the Federal Government.
Although the nation’s tribute may be belated, Deane is pleased that the exhibit she helped to create is permanent. “[It is] staying there as long as the Pentagon is there, in perpetuity,” she says. “How many opportunities do you have like that? You know, once in a lifetime.”
November 10, 2017