‘They were somebody’s loved ones. They were so young’ | PostIndependent.com

‘They were somebody’s loved ones. They were so young’

Five of the men who died in Vietnam enlisted in Garfield County, although other locals may have enlisted elsewhere.
Staff Photo |

Memorial Day events

Glenwood Springs

The American Legion Post 83 will be conducting its annual Memorial Day Commemoration at 11 a.m. at the Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood Springs. The general public is encouraged to attend.


American Legion Post 100’s ceremonies begin with a moment of silence and 21-gun salute at Hillcrest Cemetery on White Hill at 9 a.m., then another salute at Evergreen Cemetery at 9:30, and end with the traditional tossing of the wreath into the Roaring Fork River from the Veterans Memorial Bridge at 10.

New Castle

The New Castle Cub Scouts will join the American Legion in their annual flag ceremony at the Highlands Cemetery at 10 a.m.

James Richard Smith was born Nov. 19, 1946, enlisted in Rifle, and died in Binh Dinh, Vietnam, on Sept. 16, 1967.

Charles Leland Adkins was born Feb. 24, 1947, enlisted in Glenwood Springs, and died in Tay Ninh on Nov. 7, 1968.

The three other men who enlisted in Garfield County and died in Vietnam — Michael F. Gonzales, Thomas L. Griffee and Larry R. Kennann– have photographs on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s online “wall of faces” at http://www.vvmf.org, and will eventually appear in the planned education center in Washington, D.C.

Janna Hoehn is on a mission to see that Adkins and Smith, along with any other fallen locals who may have enlisted elsewhere, will soon join them.

“I need those photos,” she said. “I’d love to complete Garfield County.

“When you get a photograph of each of those young men, it changes the whole dynamic of that wall. It brings their memories alive,” she added. “They were real people. They were somebody’s loved ones. They were so young.”

Hoehn has collected nearly 1,500 photos across seven states, including all but 10 from her home state of Hawaii, and this year she’s setting her sights on Colorado.

“I’m getting really close,” she said. “There’s only about 20 counties left, and many of them only need one or two photos.”

Nationwide, around 41,000 of the 58,300 names on the wall have a corresponding photo. Although Hoehn doesn’t expect to track down each remaining photo on her own, she’d like to see them all accounted for. She never knew anyone killed in Vietnam, but the war made an impression on her nevertheless.

“Vietnam was my generation’s war,” she explained. “It was going on throughout my high school years, and I remember how the young men were treated when they came home, and it really bothered me.”

During her first visit to the Vietnam Memorial six years ago, Hoehn took a rubbing of a single name — Gregory John Crossman — and decided to research him. She eventually tracked down his college photo and, two years later, saw a story about the wall of faces on the news and sent the photo in.

Soon, she received an email from Jan Scruggs, the founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund asking for help tracking down missing photos for 42 soldiers in Hawaii’s Maui County.

“What I thought would be a really simple project was anything but simple, but I got all of their photographs,” Hoehn said.

Word spread, and soon Hoehn was helping to coordinate searches around the state and then the country.

“Memorial Day and Veterans Day are my key holidays, but I have had very good response every day of the year,” she said.

It’s not always the names she puts out there that come back to her.

Just last week, she stumbled across a book that included photos of every Vietnam vet from one Midwestern county — even those who enlisted elsewhere. Other times, a relative of a veteran from somewhere else reads about the hunt and provides a photo. Often, a relative has a better picture than the scanned yearbook shot that may already be in the system.

For more information about the education center or make a donation to making the building a reality, go to http://www.vvmf.org/thewall.

For more information on Hoehn’s hunt or to submit a photo, email neverforgotten2014@gmail.com. She is also looking for volunteers to assist in the search.

“It’s very time consuming, but every minute’s worth spending on it. Every time I get one of these photos I feel like I’ve hit the lottery,” she said. “I just feel like they’re my brothers. I never knew them, but they’ve had a huge impact on my life.”

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