Volunteers seek photos of area's fallen Vietnam veterans for memorial

Janna Hoehn at home in Kihei on Maui on 5.22.15. Hoehn is going through images of fallen Vietnam War soldiers sent to her by families all over the country. Hoehn photographed in her

Eighty-eight names.

By the time the Vietnam War ended, the 10-year conflict had claimed the lives of 58,315 Americans - 88 of them from Hamilton County.

U.S. Army Sgt. Jimmy Richard Griffin was the first from Chattanooga to die, March 22, 1963, two months shy of his 27th birthday. Military records report he took his own life.

Eighty-seven more would follow, falling in places with names like Binh Dinh, Quang Nam and Kontum. Little more than points on a map for many Americans. Then or now.

Janna Hoehn knows none of the 88 men from Hamilton County who lost their lives. Has no ties.

photo Janna Hoehn at home in Kihei on Maui on 5.22.15. Hoehn is going through images of fallen Vietnam War soldiers sent to her by families all over the country. Hoehn photographed in her

How to help

If you are a relative, friend or classmate of any of the veterans on the list, Janna Hoehn asks that you contact her by email at neverforgotten2014@gmail.com.“Even if you don’t have a photo but know which school any of these young men attended, it would be so helpful,” she says.She also is seeking a volunteer to be her “boots on the ground” who could visit libraries to search for obituaries and high schools to look through yearbooks.To see the photos of veterans already archived, visit www.vvmf.org/the wall and search the Wall of Faces by name or location. Anyone who has a better photo (or another photo they wish to add) may also send in images.These names represent only the veterans whose photos are not yet archived by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

But the 62-year-old Hawaii resident is on a mission to remember them in pictures.

As a volunteer with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Hoehn is collecting photos of each veteran for a new education center to be built at the Wall in Washington, D.C. The black granite monolith contains the names of all the men and women who gave their lives in the war or remain missing. The new education center will give more personal histories.

So far, she has collected 66 photos of the 88 fallen veterans from Hamilton County, which are already included in an online tribute. She is hoping for community help to get the last 22 images.

"I have always hoped I could do something for the Vietnam veterans, as the way they were treated when they returned, it was disgraceful," she says.

Her mission started by accident on a trip to D.C. eight years ago with her husband.

"Because Vietnam was the war that was going on while I was in high school, the first memorial on my list was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall," she says. "Even though I never knew anyone killed in Vietnam, I wanted a rubbing of one of the names."

She chose a name at random, Gregory John Crossman, an Air Force major from Sturgis, Michigan, who went missing in action on April 25, 1968. When she returned home to Hawaii, she began researching Crossman to find his family. She hoped to send them the etching she made of his name "in the event they were never able to go to the Wall."

For six months, she researched "every way possible," she says, and found no information. Frustrated and disappointed, she turned to a cousin, the "family historian," who produced a college photo of Crossman six weeks later.

Two years later, a Maui news station aired a story on the Faces Never Forgotten project for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, whose goal is to put a face with every name etched on the Wall. She immediately sent her photo of Crossman. Jan Scruggs, the founder and president emeritus of the Wall, responded with a request: Would she help the organization find photos for the 42 Maui County fallen?

"It would be an honor," she told him.

After six months of searching, aided by local news reports of her progress, Hoehn had found a photo of each of Maui County's fallen heroes. Then, she cast her sights on her native California and found the five soldiers from her childhood home, Hemet. With those done, she began searching for photos of all the missing soldiers in California.

State by state, she has moved east, collecting more than 6,000 photos since 2011, she says.

Hoehn is one of about two dozen volunteers who devote thousands of hours to the project, and there are many more who dabble, says Heidi Zimmerman, director of communications for the VVMF.

"Everybody goes about it differently," Zimmerman says. "Janna's way is reaching out to the media. There's a gentleman in Indiana who has a Facebook page to find all the Hoosiers."

Hoehn says even with just 42 names in her Maui search, the research was complicated. She began by combing through phone books and calling every like surname of each soldier. Then she consulted yearbooks archived at high schools and obituaries at libraries.

Zimmerman says photos of 156 Tennesseans are still missing. The numbers are higher in Georgia (378) and Alabama (239), which have not yet been the subject of Hoehn's media attention. In the tri-state region around Chattanooga, there are 53 missing photos.

Bill Norton, president of the Chattanooga Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 203, says he had not heard of any efforts to locate photos, but has one of the missing, his brother, John E. Norton of Fort Oglethorpe. The Marine corporal was killed in action on Dec. 29, 1970.

As of Thursday, 54,892 photos have been located since 2009, according to Zimmerman. And funds are still being raised for the center, $42 million so far of a $130 million total price tag. Much of the expense, she explains, comes from locating the center underground to preserve sight lines between the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

Hoehn says she and the other volunteers won't stop until they track down the rest of the 3,423 photos.

"Putting a face with a name changes the whole dynamic of the Wall," she says. "It keeps our fallen heroes' memories alive and will honor them. Our heroes' stories and sacrifice will never be forgotten."

Contact Lisa Denton at ldenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6281.

More Info

TennesseeHAMILTON COUNTYName DOB-DOD Home of RecordJerry L. Bell 1946-1967 ChattanoogaJames T. Gray 1940-1965 ChattanoogaRobert E. Hamilton 1943-1968 ChattanoogaManuel A. Hicks Jr. 1947-1967 ChattanoogaEmanuel Jones Jr. 1947-1969 ChattanoogaGlenn H. Kelley 1942-1965 ChattanoogaVirgil Kirkland Jr. 1941-1965 ChattanoogaMarvin E. Lively 1949-1968 SoddyRayfon Lofton 1944-1966 ChattanoogaRobert E. Poe 1946-1968 ChattanoogaJohn R. Prince 1925-1967 ChattanoogaFranklin D. Ratliff 1948-1968 ChattanoogaCarlton Ross 1947-1968 ChattanoogaWillie Shelton 1941-1968 ChattanoogaCharles J. Swint 1947-1969 ChattanoogaClifton Tanksley 1931-1967 ChattanoogaTommy L. Taylor 1947-1968 ChattanoogaHaywood W. Tipsy Jr. 1947-1967 ChattanoogaTomas C. Tucker 1943-1969 ChattanoogaJohnnie L. Vaught Jr. 1949-1968 ChattanoogaJohn H. Walker Jr. 1948-1967 ChattanoogaJames F. Watson 1932-1968 ChattanoogaCOFFEE COUNTYHomer B. Bell Jr. 1947-1968 TullahomaFreddie R. Kelley 1946-1968 TullahomaKenneth W. Martin 1947-1970 ManchesterWalter D. Smith 1942-1969 TullahomaFRANKLIN COUNTYJames E. Robinson 1949-1968 WinchesterJohn H. Shetters 1946-1966 CowanMARION COUNTYPaul P. Cabe 1952-1971 GuildBilly Dodson 1933-1966 JasperGary B. Kilgore 1946-1968 WhitwellGary E. Perkins 1947-1966 WhitwellMCMINN COUNTYMilard L. Bledsoe 1938-1968 AthensWARREN COUNTYJohnny L. Whiteaker 1948-1968 McMinnvilleGeorgiaDADE COUNTYWaymon M. Parker 1947-1967 Rising FawnWALKER COUNTYWilliam L. Byrd 1944-1970 RossvilleBilly R. Head 1939-1969 ChickamaugaJimmy T. Morris 1950-1969 RossvilleJohn E. Norton 1951-1970 Fort OglethorpeBillie H. Smith 1943-1966 RossvilleCHATTOOGA COUNTYBenny R. Dupree 1950-1969 SummervilleNathaniel Knowles 1942-1967 MenloFLOYD COUNTYWilliam E. Finley 1948-1969 RomeThomas S. Jones 1947-1967 RomeEddie L. Spivey 1937-1970 RomeGILMER COUNTYDavid M. Herendon 1943-1967 CherrylogClarance W. Rogers Jr. 1945-1967 East EllijayAlabamaDEKALB COUNTYLouis L. Clanton 1944-1968 CollinsvilleJACKSON COUNTYPaul R. Chambers 1943-1966 ScottsboroJimmy R. Holkem 1948-1970 StevensonClayton G. Rogers Jr. 1933-1965 BridgeportCHEROKEE COUNTYLewis E. Cantrell 1944-1967 CentreJimmie L. Chamblee 1945-1970 Centre