Forty Years After the War, Search Continues for Vietnam’s Forgotten Fighters

Hawaii woman looking for photos of local soldiers lost at war

By Justin Franz
Janna Hoehn has been looking for photos of forgotten Vietnam veterans for the last few years and is currently tracking down photos of soldiers from Flathead, Lake and Lincoln counties. Courtesy Photo

When Janna Hoehn made her first trip to Washington, D.C., there was no doubt what memorial she would see first: The Vietnam Wall.

Hoehn, of Maui, Hawaii, was in high school when thousands of Americans were sent to Vietnam to fight in one of the country’s costliest and perhaps most controversial conflicts. Even though she did not know anyone who had fought in the war, she felt an unexplainable connection to those who did.

When she got to the wall, she picked a name at random, Gregory John Crossman, and took a pencil rubbing of his name.

Upon returning to Maui, Hoehn retrieved her paper memento and began looking for Crossman’s family in hopes of sending the rubbing to them in case they could never go to the memorial themselves. She was unsuccessful in finding the family but was able to track down a college photo of Crossman and she sent it to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund after seeing a story on their project, “Faces Never Forgotten.” The initiative was launched to put a face to every name on the wall.

Upon receiving the photo, Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the wall, emailed Hoehn to thank her and ask her for a favor. The memorial foundation was looking for photos of the 42 Maui County soldiers who were killed in action. The photos will become part of the centerpiece of an education center that is being built near the wall. The fund’s goal is to get a photo to go with all 58,000 names.

After getting her assignment, Hoehn combed local phone books and yearbooks. She reached out to a local newspaper to and within six months she had gathered all of the photos.

After she found the forgotten soldiers of Maui, she moved on to finding those in her hometown in California and then to the entire state.  Little did she know she had embarked on a project that would consume her life, and a few years later she has tracked down photos in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and now Montana. In that time she’s compiled more than 1,200 images. All of the photos she gathers are added to the nearly 40,000 that have been collected by the fund.

“When those young men returned from war they did not get a proper welcome,” she said. “They deserve to be honored and deserve to be remembered … That’s why I do this.”

This spring she is looking for 46 photos from Montana, including veterans from Flathead, Lincoln and Lake counties.

Hoehn is asking anyone with photos of the following soldiers to send them to neverforgotten2014@gmail.com. For more information visit www.vvmf.org/thewall.

Flathead County

Richard J. Best Jr. of Kalispell

Manford L. Kleiv of Whitefish

Lake County

Jack M. Baker of Ronan

William J. Fisher of Arlee

Jean B. Incashola of St. Ignatius

John C. Mattheisen of Charlo

Joseph L. Pokerjim of St. Ignatius

Richard E. Westfall of Polson

Lincoln County

Steven L. Byington of Libby

Lester W. Johnson Jr. of Libby

Harold S. Lockwood of Troy

Robert E. Welch of Libby

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