Herman: Putting faces with the names on the Vietnam Memorial wall

There are more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica on display this week at the University of Texas campus in conjunction with the Vietnam War Summit being held at the LBJ Presidential Library. An accompanying exhibit includes photos of some of the fallen and missing service members whose names are on the wall.

“These photographs put a face to the names inscribed on The Wall,” says a sign. “While they are just a small number of the over 50,000 names there, they represent the larger meaning of the Memorial. Each face gives us pause because it is a story, a life, a person, each of whom had a birthday, a family and friends and whom we now honor and remember.”

Yes, there is something about putting a face with a name. Just above that sign, Air Force Lt. Col. Clifford Fieszel of Lubbock, posing on one knee in front of a fighter jet, stared back at me from sometime before Sept. 30, 1968, the day he became missing in action in North Vietnam at age 30.

As I read the sign, a woman walked up to me and asked if there are photos to go with every name. Sadly, there are not, but volunteers like Janna Hoehn have dedicated themselves to the task. There are about 12,000 photos left to find, including some from service members from around here. Hoehn needs your help.

“I am trying to get a story out about the Faces Never Forgotten Program with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.,” Hoehn told me by email from her Hawaii home. “We are trying to put a face with every name etched on the Vietnam Wall.”

Hoehn got involved with this after she and her husband visited Washington several years ago.

“Because Vietnam was the war that was going on while I was in high school, the first memorial on my list was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall,” she said. “Even though I never knew anyone killed in Vietnam, I wanted a rubbing of one of the names.”

She chose a man’s name at random and then tried to track down his relatives so she could send the rubbing in case they never made it to the wall. It took about six months, but she found a college photo of the man. Later, after hearing about the Faces Never Forgotten project, she submitted the photo and was asked if she could help find photos for 42 Maui residents whose names are on the wall. She was honored to do so.

“I have always hoped I could to do something for the Vietnam veterans as the way they were treated when they returned, it was disgraceful. Here was my chance,” she said.

And here’s our chance.

“My plea is this: If anyone is related, a friend or a classmate to any of the young men on the list I would very much appreciate hearing from you. Even if you don’t have a photo but know which school any of these young men attended it would be helpful,” Hoehn said.

You can see and search the photos found to date at www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces. You can contact Hoehn at neverforgotten2014@gmail.com. In addition to posting the photos on the website, the photos are being collected by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for use in a planned education center at the wall in Washington.

Here are the Travis County names in search of accompanying photos: Arnold Aguilar (1945-1968), Augustine Beltram Jr. (1948-1967), Edward G. Blackmon (1944-1966), Willie E. Bunte (1947-1966), Elias C. Jurado Jr. (1947-1968), Willie D. McVea (1942-1968), Joe Moreno (1947-1965), Harvey M. Mosher Jr. (1944-1967), Sidney Piper Jr. (1948-1970), Samuel D. Reeves Jr. (1950-1969), Virgil D. Rice (1948-1968), John P. Roland (1944-1965), Eric Sackett (1947-1966), Daniel Tienda (1943-1966), Afton M. Watts (1937-1968) and Samuel G. Ybarra (1946-1970).

Hoehn is also looking for photos of two former Hays County residents on the wall — Fred Rodriguez (1944-1965) and Allen W. Thomas (1948-1968) — and one from Williamson County, Sam Canada Jr. (1944-1966).

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund announced this week that Oregon had become the 10th state in which photos have been found for all of the state’s names on the wall. “Janna Hoehn, a dedicated Wall of Faces volunteer, helped find the final photo for Oregon,” the organization said when announcing the milestone.

There is something about putting a face with a name.

“I’m just a kid whose attention was grabbed by Clifford Wayne Fieszel’s picture,” someone who self-identified as “Just a boy at school” wrote in the remembrances section with Fieszel’s photo at the Wall of Faces website.

There are 3,418 Texans on the wall, and the search still is on for photos of 456 of them. Let’s see what we can do to help Hoehn complete the important task of putting faces with all of our local names on the wall.

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