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Can You Help Honor Fallen Vets?

From the June 12, 2019 issue
of The Journal

By Richard Harris
   Most of our readers are likely familiar with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It's a 246-foot long black granite wall that has the names of all of the U.S. military service members who died in the war. However, there is another tribute that everyone may not be aware of and the local community's help is needed to make it complete.
   The "Faces Never Forgotten – Wall of Faces" project seeks to have a photograph of every single one of the 58,318 fallen whose names are etched on the wall. Progress has been remarkable – over 53,000 photos have been collected. However, the remaining photos have proven difficult to locate.
   That's where local residents come in. There are three fallen heroes who are from within The Journal's coverage area and we are asking our readers to help the project find them.
   Photos are needed of:
   * Odie C. McMurray of Buena Vista,
   * Lester Rushin of Buena Vista,
   * Tommy L. Smith of Preston.
   The Journal is working with volunteer Janna Hoehn of Maui, Hawaii, who has dedicated the last eight years of her life to the project.

   Hoehn didn't expect to be involved in any sort of project, but once she became involved she was "all in". It started way back when she and her husband made a trip to Washington, D.C. Because the Vietnam War was going on while she was in high school, the memorial was the first on her list to visit while at the Capitol.
   "Even though I never knew anyone killed in Vietnam, I wanted an rubbing of one of the names," she said. "I approached the Wall and chose a name – Gregory John Crossman. 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."
   She was disappointed when she couldn't locate the family, but after six months her cousin (her family's unofficial historian) found a college photo of the fallen soldier.
   Two more years rolled by and she happened to see a news story about the "Faces Never Forgotten" project.
   "I immediately sent in the photo I had of Gregory Crossman," she said. "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, as it was the first for this hero and asked me if I could help him find the photos for the 42 Maui County fallen that were killed in Vietnam."
   She thought of the disgraceful way Vietnam vets had been treated when they returned to their country after the war and decided that she would love to help. Six month later, after a lot of luck and some help from the Maui News, she had all of the photos for Maui County.
   Having completed that task, she moved on to find five missing photos of soldiers from her hometown of Hemet, California. That led her to branch out to the entire country and try to find photos for all of the fallen.
   "The response has been amazing," said Hoehn. "I have collected over 7,000 photos since 2011. With your help it will be more. I am taking one state at a time, moving west to east. I have helped complete the states of Montana, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Hawaii, Kentucky and Arkansas. I am very close on several others."
   If any of The Journal's readers has a photo, of course it is wanted. However, information that may help lead to someone else who might have a photo is also desired.
   "My plea is this, 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," she said. "Even if you don't have a photo, but you know what school any of these young men attended, or any other information about them, it would be so helpful. … I am also 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. It may mean a trip to the library to search for obituaries or to a high school to look through yearbooks."
   Anyone with a photo (or information) may contact Janna Hoehn directly at neverforgotten2014@gmail.com. You may also contact The Journal at 229-649-6397 or tjournal@windstream.net.

   To view the Wall of Faces online go to vvmf.org/thewall. There is also a Healing Wall that travels all over the U.S.