Ever since Maui-resident Janna Hoehn visited the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall in Washington DC six years ago, she’s been thinking about by the ultimate sacrifice the soldiers made for their country.
Even though she knew no one killed in the war, she choose a name on the wall, did a rubbing and decided to research that soldier. That single act of curiosity has now turned into a lifelong pursuit to put a face to the name of soldiers on The Wall, part of national effort.
Since May 2013, Hoehn has collected more than 1,200 photos in support of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s “Faces Never Forgotten” project. It seeks to put a face with every name etched on The Wall.
Hoehn is currently looking for photos and any information about three Renton young men who died in Vietnam: John C. Browning, (1944-1969); Steve W. Kinghammer, (1946-1967) and Charles R. Petchnick, (1947-1967).
Hoehn’s mission started with trying to find any information for soldier Gregory John Crossman, who was listed as missing in action. With the help of her cousin, the family historian, she was able to find a college photo of Crossman and sent it in to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund.
This led to a “thank you” from Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Wall, and an invitation to help find photos for 42 Maui County soldiers killed in the war.
“I told him it would be an honor,” said Hoehn, adding that she always hoped she could do something for the Vietnam veterans because of the way they were treated when they returned home.
She thought the Maui search for soldiers would be easy because of the small island, but she was wrong. She pored through phone books, calling every name that was similar to one of the soldiers for whom she was searching. She found 10 names that way.
Next she went off to search archived yearbooks and obituary notices and found a few more that way. Then after the local paper, the Maui News, did a story about the effort, Hoehn started receiving calls and photos from all over the U.S.
After about six months of the paper publishing the names of the fallen soldiers, she had a photo for every soldier from Maui County.
“Once I had all the photos, I decided I did not want to keep this to myself,” Hoehn said. “I needed to share it with Maui County.”
She decided to make a display with her 42 soldiers and take it all over the island, giving presentations to high schools, libraries and civic groups with what she learned.
It’s been very well-received, Hoehn said.
Her efforts have inspired her to pursue more faces of soldiers in her hometown of Hemet and San Jacinto, California. The response has been “amazing,” she said.
Hoehn has moved to searching for all soldiers in California and her story has been published in newspapers throughout Hawaii, California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
“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,” she said.
Now Hoehn’s search has turned to King County.
“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. “Even if you don’t have a photo, but know which school any of these young men attended, it would be so helpful.”
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall has the names of 58,300 etched on its face. To date, only 39,500 photos have been collected.
Those who have photos or information can contact Hoehn at email@example.com. She also is seeking a volunteer to “do some footwork” in the community if all the photos aren’t found.