Woman seeks photos of Vietnam war dead

Published 6:46 am Saturday, January 14, 2017

A woman in Hawaii is on a mission to collect the photos of Vietnam soldiers killed in combat and she is hoping some folks in Washington Parish can help.

Janna Hoehn is one of many in a volunteer army out to help the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund put a face to every name on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. The project is part of the VVMF’s virtual wall of faces, and it will allow visitors — or anyone with Internet access — to see the people who gave their lives in the Vietnam conflict.

Hoehn said she was in high school when the war was being waged and doesn’t know anyone personally killed in the conflict, but she was moved by the wall when she visited the monument eight years ago. While there, she made an etching of one of the names, Gregory John Crossman, and began researching the man, trying to find more about him than his name. For months she searched.

But she came up empty.

“I was quite disappointed,” she wrote. “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. … 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.”

So, years ago so began a journey in Hawaii that has taken her to Washington Parish.

Hoehn said the network of volunteers divide up the work, and each one gets a few states and they work through those states county by county (or, in this case, parish by parish).

“About every six months I take on new states,” she said. “Sometimes I’m not completed with the previous state, but I want to keep the pictures coming in.”

She said she usually just calls up the local newspaper or news agency to get the word out, provide the names of the local dead or missing in action, and the public does the rest.

“It’s just been phenomenal,” she said.

She said she’ll often gets emails from people who don’t know anyone on the list, but who know Vietnam dead and she encourages these people to email, too.

“I’ll have people say, ‘I didn’t know any of the young men who are listed in the newspaper. However, my brother died in Vietnam or my cousin or my dad, and do you need his photo?’ and many, many, many, many times we need the photo. People move around and go to different places,” she said.

All told, the project has collected over 50,000 photos but Hoehn said they still need 8,127 and 279 in Louisiana.

Hoehn said the reason she keeps going is because she likes the idea of helping the soldiers who lost their lives.

“I am a florist by trade and I have done many events, many celebrity events,” she said. “But it does not hold a candle about how I feel about these soldiers.”

According to Hoehn, the project needs at least five soldiers from Bogalusa — James W. Blackman (born 1932, died 1970), Cecil F. Bush (1933-1969), Ira D. Cooper (1947-1968), Albert J. Peters (1945-1968) and Ralph S. Roussell Jr. (1950-1970).

Hoehn said if anyone has any photos of these men, email her at neverforgotten2014@gmail.com or if anyone knows anyone who was killed or who is missing in action in Vietnam, they should email her as well. Even people who don’t have photos but know the men should get in touch, she said.

“Anyone that has information about families, if they don’t have a photo but possibly if they know what high school they went to, that is very helpful because I can always contact the high school to get a yearbook photo,” she said.

To learn more about the national project, visit www.vvmf.org/about-the-wall-of-faces.