The names are just the beginning of the story for Janna Hoehn.
The florist from Maui wants to ensure each of the 58,286 military service members named on the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial also is remembered with a photograph.
“They deserve to be honored,” she said. “They deserve to be remembered, and putting a face to the names changes the whole dynamic of the wall. It makes them real.”
She has spent much of the past four years gathering images of lives cut short for a Vietnam War education center that will accompany the famous memorial wall on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Hoehn works one state at a time, getting the word out about the photo project and forwarding images to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Pierce and Thurston counties are at the top of her agenda now that she’s targeting the Evergreen State.
Already, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has collected photos of more than 37,000 of the war’s dead military service members.
“We’re doing really well, but we still need 21,000 photos,” she said.
In the South Sound, the fund is looking for photos of 44 men who listed Pierce County as their home of record when they went to Vietnam. Twelve military service members from Thurston County are not yet represented in the photo collection.
All together, 109 military service members from Pierce County died in the war. Another 29 from Thurston County lost their lives in Vietnam, according to records kept by the memorial fund.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund had a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony for the education center two years ago. It aims to display photos of the dead, and mementos left at the wall.
Hoehn found her calling on a visit to the wall six years ago. She was curious about the monument, having watched the war unfold from afar in her Southern California high school years.
The wall “just had a huge impact on me,” she said.
Hoehn randomly chose a name on the wall as she walked into the memorial, selecting Maj. Gregory John Crossman. She etched his name on a sheet of paper but came to wonder what he looked like.
A relative helped her track down a photo of the airman from Michigan, and Hoehn knew she wanted to do more. She found that opportunity when she learned about the memorial fund’s plans to collect photos for its education center.
She started working through a list of dead military service members from Maui, then the rest of Hawaii. Hoehn picked California as her second target, helping to gather 700 photos of troops from the Golden State.
“Now I want to start finding the Tacoma boys,” she said.
To learn more about the memorial fund’s plans for its education center or to look at photos of dead troops from Vietnam, go to vvmf.org/thewall.
To help Hoehn, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s interested in photos of the dead or information about which high schools they attended. Identifying a high school can lead to a yearbook photo for the memorial project.