The Foreign Service Journal, April 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2023 41 RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN K. NALAND AFSA NEWS Contact: The Foreign Service Honor Roll Retirees who have not visited Main State’s C Street lobby in the last few years may not appreciate the dramatic changes there in the AFSA Memorial Plaques honor- ing colleagues who died in circumstances distinctive to overseas service dating back to 1780. The once-in- a-generation expansion and refurbishment of the AFSA plaques in 2021 and 2022 had several components. First, because the sad toll of the deaths of colleagues had left room for just eight additional names on the existing memorial plaques, new space was needed. Back in 2011, Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy reserved the six lobby columns near the inte- rior courtyard for future AFSA plaque expansion. Because a successor could reverse that decision in the future, AFSA decided that the time had come to claim all six of those high-visibility locations. Thus, in May 2021, AFSA placed a large (approxi- mately 1.5 by 7.5 feet) black granite panel on each of those six columns on their courtyard-facing side. While we hope for no new names to be added to the panels, if the pace of Foreign Service deaths continues as in recent decades, the new panels should provide space for 50 years of additional inscriptions. Second, AFSA removed and replaced the four side panels situated beside the two historic large plaques that dominate either end of the lobby. Many of the names on those side panels had been inscribed out of chrono- logical order following AFSA’s decision in 2001 to expand plaque criteria to include, for example, colleagues in past decades who died in acci- dents during official travel. Several dozen of those historical names were inscribed as they were identified in the early 2000s, with the result being that visitors to the memorial plaques saw a confusing jumble of dates with, for example, the inscription of a 2002 death listed above that of a 1978 death. In 2021 AFSA decided to remove and reinscribe the four side panels to produce a chrono- logically coherent, dignified listing. Third, before reinscrib- ing those side panels, AFSA decided to also inscribe 67 names of early diplomats and consular officers, plus additional 20th-century For- eign Service members whose deaths AFSA had not known about or had not recognized. Those names were dis- covered by way of diligent archival research by several Foreign Service members and retirees during the 2010s. (See Jason Vorder- strasse’s November 2020 FSJ article for more.) Thus, in May 2021, AFSA reinscribed the four side panels and inscribed three of the six new column panels with the names of those fallen col- leagues arranged in chrono- logical order. Fourth, anticipating that researchers in coming years will continue to document additional deaths of col- leagues from past decades and centuries, AFSA in April 2021 created a virtual memorial plaque on the AFSA website to memorialize those historical names. The alternative of inscribing them on the physical plaques would have produced a new jumble of dates and left less room to inscribe future Foreign Service deaths. Five such historical names already have been added to the virtual plaque in just the past two years, thus validating the concern that there are likely many more to be discovered. AFSA plans to see how many addi- tional historical names come to light over the next decade and then decide whether to inscribe them on the three remaining column panels at the expense of space to honor future deaths. Finally, in December 2022, AFSA refurbished the large three-column memo- rial plaque that was installed in the late 1960s on the east wall of the C Street lobby. Its gold leaf lettering had noticeably faded over the past half century, so AFSA had those 917 letters and dates repainted using a special gold paint containing gold dust that was imported from Europe. Hopefully, that new lettering will last another 50 years. As the caretaker of the memorial plaques since 1933, AFSA will continue to hold its annual plaque cer- emony on the first Friday of each May, when the names of newly fallen colleagues are unveiled, or existing names are commemorated. AFSA Governing Boards will continue to apply the long-standing plaque criteria when considering new nominations for inscription. Those decisions are some- times controversial since all deaths—including from natural causes—are to be mourned, but AFSA 90 years ago reasonably decided to focus public attention on colleagues dying in cir- cumstances distinctive to overseas service. n One of the memorial plaques in the C Street lobby. JOHNNALAND