The Moving Wall, a half-size representation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be in Gadsden May 11-15. The foundation that built the memorial in the nation’s capitol hope it will help with the completion of another project to recognize Vietnam veterans — the Wall of Faces.
The Vietnam Memorial lists the names of each member of the military who died in the conflict. At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s website — www.vvmf.org/thewall — there is an online memorial with information about each of those who died in Vietnam, along with some information, sometimes photos and messages from family or fellow servicemen.
However, the organization has not found photos for all those on the wall, and for some the photos are not great quality.
“Putting a face with a name changes the whole dynamic of the Wall,” said Janna Hoehn, who is working to help find photos for each of the veterans. After someone alerted her to a news story about the Moving Wall coming to Gadsden, she reached out to ask for help finding photos for some of the Etowah County veterans.
There are good quality photos for many local service members who died in Vietnam. For some — like Harold David Bowlen and Clyde Wendell Hanson of Gadsden, and Joe Harry Stanley of Altoona — there are no pictures at all.
For others — like Carl E. Adkison, Jackie W. Garner and Kenneth E. Heath of Gadsden, and Robert L. Hilley and Glenn E. Sanders of Attalla — the photos are not the best quality, Hoehn said, and she would like to get better ones.
Sometimes, she said, visits of the Moving Wall will bring families of fallen soldiers together, and the surrounding publicity will make families and friends aware of the online memorial.
“We’ve sometimes gotten more veteran photos,” Hoehn said, as a result of the Moving Wall.
She hopes that might be the case as the wall comes to Gadsden. While she provided a list of names from Etowah County, there may be service members from surrounding counties, too, who lack photos on the Wall of Faces.
To see the profiles for each name on the memorial wall, visit www.vvmf.org/thewall and click on Wall of Faces. There are functions to find veterans by name, city or county.
Hoehn, a 26-year resident of Maui, Hawaii, was in high school during the Vietnam era. When she and her husband visited Washington, D.C., eight years ago, the Vietnam Memorial was the first memorial they visited. Though she didn’t know anyone personally on the wall, she wanted a rubbing of a name. When she got home, she researched that soldiers name, trying to find his family so she could share the rubbing with them.
Two years later, she saw a news story about the “Faces Never Forgotten” for the VVMF. She sent a photo she’d found of that soldier she’d researched and received an email from founder and president Jan Scruggs. He thanked her for the photo and asked if she would be interested in finding photos for the 42 veterans listed from Maui County. She combed phone books, yearbooks and the local library for obituaries.
The local newspaper periodically ran stories, updating which servicemen she needed photos for. Each story brought in a couple more photos; after six months she had them all. Hoehn then started looking for photos for soldiers from her hometown, then for Native American soldiers on the wall.
Eventually, she decided to search for soldiers from all states. Newspapers in many states have run stories about her search and since 2001, she’s collected more than 4,000 photos.
While she had not gotten to Alabama in her search, she wanted to take advantage of the Moving Wall visit to try to fill in the missing photos in the area.
Hoehn said she hopes someone in Etowah County, or in the surrounding areas, will volunteer to be “boots on the ground,” searching for photos.
It may mean a trip to a library or high school to look at old newspapers or yearbooks, she said, as she did when she started her search.
Anyone with photos of Vietnam vets on the wall can send them to Hoehn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hoehn said the names she’s listed are just the ones without good photos. Anyone who wishes to visit the profile of any other Etowah County veteran on the wall can visit the website.
The Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association is raising money to help with some of the expenses related to bringing the wall to Gadsden. Visit the association’s Facebook page to donate to a GoFundMe account.