By Michael O'Kane
There are 25 or so volunteers comprising the project “The Wall of Faces,” whose goal is linking photographs to the names on the [Vietnam] Wall. They’ve been working slowly but surely toward getting a photo for each of the 58,000+ names.
They scour genealogical websites, newspaper obituary pages from fifty years ago. They look for local newspapers and high school yearbooks and boot camp photos, next-of-kin sources, and newspaper “morgue” Sites.
It’s a daunting task, but people like Janna Hoehn of Maui, Hawaii, and Jackie Hatton of Oklahoma are up to the job. They are steadfast and relentless in their pursuit of information for the “Wall of Faces.”
Not all sources are forthcoming; some simply don’t want to be reminded of the tragedy in their lives - the loss of a loved one is difficult under any circumstances, to relive it over and over is sometimes simply too much to bear. Others just don’t want to be bothered. Public libraries are a reliable source, but again for whatever reason they either don’t have the time or the incentive to research.
New York City in particular is a special problem. When an individual was drafted or enlisted, often the clerk would write "NYC" as home of record, not realizing that New York is comprised of five boroughs and those boroughs usually had several dozen micro-municipalities (Queens, my current residence, has perhaps 60).
It’s a time-consuming job but one that needs to be done, say Hatton and Hoehn. “They gave the last full measure and deserve every ounce of respect and recognition we can give them.” Some of the best sources for photos have dwindled out. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation's Virtual Wall was a rich resource but the volunteers have exhausted that, having used every photo they could find. They’ve come up short by some 150 photos.
Hoehn stopped counting when she’d found over 7,000 photos, but continues the job. Most of the work is done using home computers and the telephone.
The ladies reached out to VVA President John Rowan, who in turn contacted me. They need your help, included with this story is a list of the names for which they need photographs. If you know these guys, served with them, grew up or went to school with any of them, please contact Janna Hoehn at email@example.com or Jackie Hatton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Courtesy of the VVA’s “The Veteran” magazine]