'Wall of Faces' needs 21 photos from Alaska

Photo/Courtesy/Janna Hoehn

My name is Janna Hoehn. I am a 25-year resident of Maui, Hawaii. Six years ago my husband and I made our first trip to Washington, D.C. Because Vietnam was the war that was going on while I was in high school, the first memorial on my list was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

Even though I never knew anyone killed in Vietnam, I wanted a rubbing of one of the names.  I approached the Wall and choose a name: Gregory John Crossman, an MIA. When I returned home I decided to research Gregory and try to find his family, in the event they were never able to go to the Wall, I would send them the etching, hoping they would share a photo with me of Gregory.

Off and on for six months I researched every way possible and never found any family. I was quite disappointed. However, I had one more possibility: my cousin, our family historian. Six weeks later she found a college photo of Gregory.

Two years later I saw a story on our local news about the “Faces Never Forgotten” for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. The goal: to put a face with every name that is etched on the Wall. I immediately sent in the photo I had of Gregory Crossman.

Five days later I received an email from Jan Scruggs, the founder and president of the Vietnam Wall. He thanked me for sending the photo; it was the first for this hero and he asked me if I could help him find the photos for the 42 Maui County fallen that were killed in Vietnam.

I replied it would be an honor. I have always hoped I could to do something for the Vietnam veterans, as the way they were treated when they returned was disgraceful. Here was my chance.

What I thought would be a very easy project with Maui being so small was anything but easy. I started by combing the phone books calling every like name of each soldier. I found about 10 of them this way, then off to archived yearbooks for every high school on Maui. I found a few more. Then to the library to look for obituaries, and found three more

I then went to the Maui News. They printed a beautiful front page article about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the Education Center. I started receiving calls from all over the United States sending me photos.

I was unaware how many people read the Maui News online. The Maui News ran an article about every six weeks printing the list of names of photos I still needed. Every time they ran a story, I would receive another photo or two. After six months of searching I had a photo of every fallen hero from Maui County. Once I had all the photos I decided I did not want to keep this to myself.

I needed to share it with Maui County. I had a display made with all 42 photos. I took it all over Maui giving presentations to high schools, libraries and civic groups. It has been very well received.

Once I finished finding all the Maui County photos I moved on to my hometown in California and found the five soldiers from my childhood homes of Hemet and San Jacinto, Calif.

I have been very involved in trying to locate photos of the Native American Soldiers, which brought me to start searching for ALL Soldiers in California. More than 190 newspapers have run the story throughout Hawaii, California, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina, Alaska and Montana. The response has been amazing.

I have collected more than 1,400 photos since May 2013. With your help it will be more. I am taking one state at a time.

All of these photos will be submitted to the “Wall of Faces” online memorial with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, as well as in the future Education Center that will be adjacent to the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C.

Putting a face with a name changes the whole dynamic of the Wall — it keeps our fallen heroes’ memories alive and will honor them, our heroes stories and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

My plea is this:

If anyone is related, a friend or a classmate to any of the young men on the list I would very much appreciate hearing from you. Even if you don’t have a photo but know which school any of these young men attended, it would be so helpful.

We need to obtain a photo of every single Fallen Hero whose names are etched on The Wall: all 58,307 of them. To date we have collected more than 41,000 photos.

I am also looking for an individual that would like to volunteer to be my “boots on the ground” in your community if we do not find all the photos.

One item that may need to be explained to your readers is the list of names reflects the names we still need photos for. If a name is not included and your reader wishes to look up their loved one or friends name, go to www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces, type the name in the search box, the profile will come up and its possible they may have a better photo than has been submitted.

I do not wish for anyone to feel badly that their loved one/friend is not listed or forgotten. We will never forget any of them.

11/12/2016 - 11:40am