A Hawaiian woman who embarked on a project to find deceased Vietnam veterans in her state is asking for help from Tallassee residents to honor their own heroes.
Janna Hoehn of Maui, Hawaii, is conducting a nationwide search for photos of fallen Vietnam veterans. There are several from Tallassee who are named on the Wall of Faces online memorial but have no photo.
Hoehn asks for anyone with a photo of a deceased Vietnam veteran to submit it to the Wall of Faces online memorial on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website. Those photos will also accompany the moving wall that travels all over the U.S.
“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,” Hoehn said. “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.”
There are 58,315 fallen heroes whose names are etched on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and more than 53,000 photos have been collected.
Hoehn is also asking for volunteers to assist in the effort.
“I am 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,” she said. “It may mean a trip to the library to search for obituaries or to a high school to look through yearbooks.”
When Hoehn and her husband made their first trip to Washington eight years ago their first stop was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
“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,” Hoehn said. “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.”
Hoehn continued her search over the next six months but got nowhere and became discouraged. However, she turned to a family member who was familiar with the past and just how it was chronicled. Six weeks later, she found a college photo of Crossman.
Hoehn decided to get involved with a national organization that aims to put a face with each fallen Vietnam veteran.
“Two years later I saw a story on our local news about the ‘Faces Never Forgotten’ for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund,” she said. “The goal was 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 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.”
She discovered locating more photos was harder than she thought.
“What I thought would be a very easy project with Maui being so small was anything but easy,” Hoehn said. “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 I found three more; then I went to the Maui News.”
Once Hoehn located all the Maui County photos she decided to continue her mission and began searching for photos of fallen Vietnam veterans in her hometown in California.
Since then she has been involved in several Vietnam veteran photo searches, including the search for Native American soldiers, and eventually began searching for every fallen soldier in her home state.