The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., has 58,195 names on it, including 50 from Humboldt County. An effort is currently underway to put a face -- and a story -- behind each of those names etched in black granite.
”Because the Vietnam veterans feel they've been left behind, I think this is going to be a huge step in healing because they're going to see the losses are being remembered,” said Mary Baker, executive director of the Redwood Veterans' Center.
The effort -- known as the Wall of Faces -- comes as part of a greater project to build the Education Center at the Wall. Authorized by President George W. Bush in 2003, the education center is being built in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial and is aimed at celebrating and remembering the service and sacrifice of the soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.
Visitors to the center will see photographs of the fallen, learn their stories and walk through exhibits showcasing the more than 400,000 remembrances -- things like pictures, letters and trinkets -- people have left at the memorial wall over the years.
The effort to track down photographs of the 58,195 soldiers killed in the war has been massive. To date, the photographs of more than 32,000 soldiers have been located. But, there's still a long way to go. At last count -- out of the 50 soldiers from Humboldt County who died in the war -- organizers are still looking for the photographs of 28, according to Janna Hoehn, who is spearheading the effort.
Hoehn, who lives on Maui, got involved with the Call for Photos about five years ago, after she visited the wall monument. While at the wall, Hoehn decided she wanted to take an etching of a name. She chose one at random -- Gregory John Crossman.
When Hoehn returned home, Crossman stayed with her, and she eventually resolved to research his life and contact his family, hoping they could provide a photograph that would put a face to his name. It took her seven months, but Hoehn was eventually -- with the help of a historian cousin -- able to track down a college photograph of Crossman. A couple of years later, Hoehn said she saw a story on the news about the Wall of Photos and submitted Crossman's.
A short time later, she received a call from Jan Scruggs, founder and champion of the Vietnam Wall, asking her for help in tracking down photographs of the 42 soldiers from Maui County. Hoehn was hooked, and has now helped spearhead efforts to collect photos of soldiers from some two dozen counties. She has now set her sights on Humboldt.
”If anyone is related, a friend or a classmate of any of the Humboldt County boys, I would very much appreciate hearing from you,” Hoehn wrote in an email to the Times-Standard. “Even if you don't have a photo, but know which school any of these young men attended, it would be helpful.”
Scrolling through the Wall of Faces online can be a powerful experience.
Photographs of young men stare out from the computer screen and there's a space for relatives, friends and acquaintances to share their stories.
Stories like that of James M. Trimble, a Marine Corps corporal from Eureka. He was 19 when he went missing in action.
”He was a soft spoken, but very effective communicator who led by example,” wrote Pat Tidrick, whose squad was led by Trimble in Khe Sanh. “He was as good a man as I have ever encountered in military or civilian life. He was killed by rifle fire and we tried for two days to get his body back until the hill was napalmed. ... I know that God is with him.”
Carrie Pepper wrote that her brother, Tony Pepper, was with Trimble when they started taking fire that day. Pepper wrote that she visited the missing in action memorial in Sacramento one Easter Sunday, and said a prayer for the two men.
”I'd like to think they are in heaven together,” Pepper wrote.
Ferndale's Timothy J. Jacobsen was a 21-year-old sergeant with the U.S. Army when his helicopter was shot down over Thua Thien, Vietnam. Jacobsen's sister, Cindy McWhorter, said she was in a local Kinkos a few years ago when she saw a sign calling for photos for the Wall of Faces and submitted a shot of her brother riding a bull in his trademark satin shirt.
McWhorter said the Wall of Faces is a great way to honor the veterans and to remember their stories.
”I think what it does is it makes it more real,” she said. “It brings that person forward, instead of just being a name. The emotional part of seeing a face brings a person to life.”
McWhorter said she's in awe of the enormity of the Wall of Faces project, calling it a labor of love for all involved.
”I just think it's so important that everybody be remembered,” she said. “This is a powerful way to do it.”
Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ThadeusGreenson.
Humboldt County residents killed in the Vietnam War
Photographs are needed for the following veterans:
James E. Anderson: 1946-1967 -- Eureka
George D. Birdsell: 1927-1966 -- Carlotta
Mark L Bruner: 1950-1969 -- Rio Dell
Robert W. Culver: 1948-1970 -- Eureka
Gary J. Davis: 1947-1969 -- Eureka
Patrick J. Donovan: 1943-1969 -- Trinidad
John R. Earley: 1950-1969 -- Eureka
Dennis E. Gabbert: 1947-1967 -- Eureka
Howard M. Gifford: 1934-1968 -- Ferndale
Frank E. Headley IV: 1945-1968 -- Eureka
Alan E. Hendrickson: 1935-1967 -- Arcata
Arthur K Kawachika: 1946-1971 -- Eureka
William A. Lillund: 1939-1967 -- Fortuna
Roger D. Lowery: 1948-1969 -- Arcata
Richard J. Martin: 1947-1968 -- Carlotta
James C. McGlasson: 1950-1969 -- Arcata
Lyle W. Morris: 1947-1968 -- Ferndale
Robert G. Olson: 1948-1968 -- Englewood
Daniel A. Patterson: 1944-1967 -- Eureka
Gary W. Reed: 1948-1969 -- Eureka
Nels V Rosenlund II: 1944-1969 -- Arcata
Larry T Ross: 1948-1969 -- Arcata
Philip D. Sharp: 1940-1971 -- Fortuna
James E. Sutherland: 1948-1971 -- Garberville
James C. Ward: 1947-1971 -- McKinleyville
Dwayne J. Whorton: 1948-1968 -- McKinleyville
Gary D. Wilson: 1953-1971 -- Eureka
Robert A Wimer: 1949-1969 -- Eureka
The project has already located photographs for the following veterans:
Byron B. Bowden: 1948-1969 -- Arcata
Gene E. Calph: 1934-1967 -- Eureka
David A. Carlin: 1941-1969 -- Eureka
George E. Cook: 1946-1967 -- Fortuna
Duane R. Davis: 1948-1969 -- Fortuna
Daniel C Faulks Jr.: 1946-1967 -- Eureka
Ernest D. Ford: 1947-1969 -- Eureka
Peter A. Hill: 1947-1968 -- Eureka
David E. Hubner: 1947-1970 -- Ferndale
Timothy J. Jacobsen: 1950-1971 -- Ferndale
Donald A. Kaski: 1944-1968 -- Fortuna
Marvin E. McLelland: 1947-1968 -- Arcata
Kelly S. Morris: 1949-1969 -- Arcata
Harold B. Muller: 1947-1968 -- McKinleyville
Douglas F. Quinn: 1946-1966 -- Eureka
James R. Russell: 1948-1969 -- Arcata
Charles H. Schelling: 1952-1972 -- Fortuna
Bobby A. Semore: 1945-1967 -- McKinleyville
Thomas N. Toleson: 1947-1967 -- Willow Creek
James M. Trimble: 1949-1968 -- Eureka
Jack E. Williams: 1948-1969 -- Eureka
Silas C. Wright: 1949-1969 -- Eureka
Source: Wall of Faces project
On the web:
For more information on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center and the Call for Photos, visit www.vvmf.org/thewall
How to help:
If you have photographs of any of the listed Humboldt County veterans or other information about them, or want to volunteer to help the effort in other ways, email Janna Hoehn at email@example.com. If you don't have Internet access but want to help, contact Times-Standard staff writer Thadeus Greenson at 441-0509.
Share your story: The Times-Standard is asking our readers to share their memories of the 50 men from Humboldt County who never came home from the Vietnam War. The memories will be complied in a special feature story. Please send your stories, memories and any photos of Humboldt's fallen to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “memories” in the subject line. If you believe a name was left off the Wall of Faces' list, please let us know.