In honor of National POW/MIA Recognition Day 2017, we would like to shine a spotlight on the inspiring efforts of Janna Hoehn, who is giving a face back to the young men who never returned home from the Vietnam War.
Memorial Project Puts Faces with Names of Heroes
Janna Hoehn is on a Quest for Photographs of Vietnam Veterans
(Founder of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, Jan Scruggs, describes its importance.)
September 15, 2017 – OLYMPIA, WA – Divorce Lawyers for Men had the honor of sitting down and speaking with Janna Hoehn; a very passionate woman who is making a real difference in the lives of Gold Star families through the Wall of Faces project, a project supported by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
Per the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website;
“In an effort to further preserve the legacy of those who sacrificed all in Vietnam, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is committed to finding a photo to go with each of the more than 58,000 names on The Wall. The Wall of Faces allows family and friends to share memories, post pictures, and connect with each other.”
Janna Hoehn started on the Wall of Faces project over 6 years ago.
When she began, they still needed over 32,000 of the 58,000 photographs of the fallen soldiers.
Now, they are down to less than 5,500 and Janna is confident that they will acquire them all.
Seeing those tall black blocks etched with the names of fallen heroes made Janna stop and reflect.
The Vietnam War was ending around the time that Janna was turning 18 and finishing up her high school years.
Even though she didn’t personally know anyone that was killed in the fighting, the war in Vietnam still had a profound impact on her life. She recalls hating how the soldiers who made it back home were being treated.
They were being spat on, called names, and treated without any respect for what they had just endured.
“It was disgraceful.” Janna stated.
The 18 and 19 year old boys who were drafted to fight for their country did not have a choice of whether or not they wanted to go. They were forced to go to Vietnam. The mistreatment of our veterans shook Janna and showcased an injustice that stuck with her even as the discussion of the war began to fade over time.
“You can hate the war, but not hate the warrior.” Janna explained to us. “I wanted to make sure that the Vietnam veterans got honored.”
On that day, standing before that wall of names, Janna was compelled to get a rubbing of one of the entries.
She made a rubbing of his name and returned home inspired to learn more about this lost hero.
Janna researched Gregory in hopes of sending her rubbing to his family, in case they never had the opportunity to visit the wall themselves. She had no such luck. Janna couldn’t find any information on Gregory’s family. However, after more than 7 months of searching, she was able to locate a college photograph of the young man.
Without any information on the family of Gregory John Crossman, Janna held on to her rubbing, her photograph, and her passion for Vietnam veterans for another 2 years.
One night, she was watching a local news program when they ran a story on the Faces Never Forgotten project, a previous title of the Wall of Faces project.
“I immediately sent in the photo I had of Gregory Crossman.” Janna said.
5 days later, the Founder and President of the Vietnam Wall, Jan Scruggs, called Janna and thanked her for the picture. It was the first image that they had received of Gregory John Crossman, and one less name on a list of names nearly sixty-thousand long.
Mr. Scruggs then asked Janna if she would be willing to help them find the 42 missing soldiers from Maui County.
“It would be an honor.” Janna replied.
Here was the opportunity that Janna Hoehn had been waiting for.
It was a chance to do her part to right the many wrongs that she had witnessed so long ago.
“There are times when something just comes across your path and you take it.” Janna told us.
For the next 6 months she undertook what she thought was going to be an easy task, given the relatively small size of the island.
It was anything but easy.
“A lot of the people are older. You have to go to their house, get physical pictures, scan them, copy them, return the originals back to the family, and then move on to the next. There is a lot of leg work involved.” explained Janna.
To locate pictures of the Maui boys, she started searching through phone books and calling people with matching last names, then she moved onto yearbooks, obituaries in the library, and, finally, she got some help from the Maui News who printed a story about her project on the front page of their newspaper – and then continued printing updates of her progress every 6 weeks.
Every time they ran an update, she would receive another photo or two.
At the end of the 6 months, she had accomplished her goal and gotten all 42 photos of the Maui County fallen soldiers.
But she wasn’t finished.
“I didn’t realize the effect that this would have on me.” Janna radiates her passion even through the telephone. Her authentic focus on the importance of this work is contagious. “I want to make a difference, and I think I am. It has really changed my life.”
She continued onward, searching for the names of 5 lost soldiers from her childhood hometown of Hemet, California.
Once those 5 photographs were found, she expanded on to the rest of California. Then onto Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, Alaska, Utah, Montana, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona, Louisiana, and Kentucky.
“The response has been amazing.” Janna iterated once more. “I am taking it one state at a time, moving West to East, and I’ve made it to Kentucky.”
Time and Mother Nature are not always on her side, however.
In addition to fading memories, Janna ran into the aftermath of hurricane Katrina while working her way through Louisiana. Her progress quickly ground to a slow crawl as she discovered that most of her best resources had been destroyed by the storm.
High schools, libraries, court buildings, year books, and old newspapers had been a gold mine for her up to this point, and now they were all but wiped out.
“What most people don’t realize about Katrina is that flood destroyed people’s histories.”
Janna is not one to give up easily, though.
When she has a particularly tough case she can call on a man named Dan.
Dan has military access that we do not. He has been essential in finding some of the photographs of these soldiers that, otherwise, may have been lost forever. But Janna can only give Dan a few of the names from her list at a time, so she makes sure to exhaust all of her other options first.
One by one, picture by picture, the names of fallen Vietnam veterans on Janna’s list begin to shrink.
Janna tells us that each picture is a national treasure and she gets a rush each time she finds a new one.
When asked what she does when she completes a county or state, she tells us, “I smile, do a little happy dance, and move on to the next county.”
On one occasion in Maui, where they performed a video tribute for some of the local Gold Star families, a brother to one of the fallen soldiers made a statement that resonated with Janna.
The man said, “Before Janna came along, no one remembered my brother. No one ever spoke of him. She brought my brother back to life.”
Bringing back to life the young men who left college, left loved ones, and left home to bravely travel across the world and make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
That’s what Janna Hoehn is doing.
How You Can Help the Wall of Faces Project
Help Janna Give New Life to the Young Men Lost in Vietnam
If you have a relative, a friend, or a classmate that died or went missing in Vietnam, please search his name on the Wall of Faces website and see if a photograph is needed or, perhaps, if we need a better photograph than the one we currently have displayed.
Even if you don’t have a photograph, but you know which school one of these young men attended, it would be so helpful.
And, SHARE THIS ARTICLE!
You never know if there is someone in your social network who may know the location of one of the missing photos. If you have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a personal blog page, or any type of social media profile – it doesn’t cost a thing and it only takes a second – and you can help spread the word about the Wall of Faces project.
How To Search the Wall of Faces for a Name:
Step 1) Go to www.vvmf.org/thewall
Step 2) Type the soldier’s name into the search box
Step 3) If a generic black and white photo comes up, then a picture of the soldier has not been found
Please submit any photographs or information to Janna Hoehn at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview and article by Elijah White
Join the Conversation Happening Now on Facebook!
Tag a Veteran & Thank Them for Their Service
In honor of National POW/MIA Recognition Day 2017 we are asking people to Tag a Vietnam Veteran in our post and thank them for their service.
We not only want to promote the recognition of our veterans on Facebook but we also want to help spread awareness for the Wall of Faces project and get the rest of our fallen soldier’s pictures found! We appreciate your support and participation in this project. (Just Click on the Comment Bubble to Tag a Veteran and Thank Them for Their Service)