Wall of Faces searching for photos of two fallen Madison County Vietnam vets
UPDATE: As of March 2019, photos have been added of both Sam Stewart and George Walbridge. With those additions, there is now a photo posted of every fallen Vietnam warfighter from Madison County, Alabama. Find out more about the Wall of Faces project and other ways to help below.
MADISON COUNTY — The Wall of Faces aims to fulfill one goal: to make sure no Vietnam veteran is forgotten.
For the ones who didn’t make it home, their names are memorialized on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Those names are also inscribed on The Wall That Heals, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Its related project, the Wall of Faces, seeks to put a photo with each of the approximately 58,000 names on that wall.
One woman, Janna Hoehn, has made it her mission to help complete this project, and she needs two more photos to complete Madison County’s list of fallen soldiers who are memorialized on the wall.
Hoehn is looking for Sam W. Stewart (1948-1968) and George W. Walbridge (1941-1968).
“I don’t have any information about Sam except for his mother’s name of Marie Stewart, of Huntsville, upon his death,” Hoehn said. “He was African-American. If we could find out what school he attended, we might be able to find a yearbook photo.”
As for Walbridge, Hoehn said she has a little more information to go off of. What she does know is that he was Caucasian, his wife’s name was Carol B. Walbridge, his mother’s name was Mildred Walbridge, and his father’s name was Harry C. Walbridge. She said she does not know if Walbridge had any children.
“I actually thought I found them in Florida, however, it wasn’t correct information,” she added. “They would be in their 90’s now. I have asked the public library to search for an obit for him as well.”
According to Hoehn, the library has sometimes led her straight to a photo, or at least information that eventually led her to a photo.
A California native and 28-year Hawaii resident, Hoehn began searching for names after visiting the Washington, D.C. memorial wall about eight years ago.
“The only connection is that my entire high school years was Vietnam, (and) I had two cousins that served, however made it home,” she said. At the memorial, she chose a name to make a rubbing. That name was Gregory John Crossman, an MIA.
After returning home, Hoehn researched Crossman to see if she could find any family members to whom she could send the rubbing. Months of research yielded no success, but her cousin, who Hoehn called the family historian, was able to find a college photo of the soldier.
Two years later, Hoehn found out about the Wall of Faces project. She submitted Crossman’s photo and soon received an email from Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam wall, who thanked her for that photo, as it was the first they had received for Crossman. He then asked her help in finding photos of the 42 fallen Vietnam soldiers from Maui County. Hoehn agreed to try.
“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,” she said. “Here was my chance. What I thought would be a very easy project with Maui being so small was anything but easy.”
She tried several methods of finding family members of the fallen, which gained her a few photos at a time. It wasn’t until Maui News shared her story and mission that things really took off, though.
“I started receiving calls from all over the United States sending me photos,” she recalled. “I was unaware how many people read the Maui News online. The Maui News ran an article about every six weeks printing the list of names of photos I still needed. Every time they ran a story, I would receive another photo or two.”
Six months later, she had found a photo for every name in Maui County, but Hoehn decided she did not want to stop there. She had a display made featuring all 42 photos to share with Maui County.
“I take it all over Maui giving presentations to high schools, libraries and civic groups,” she said. “It has been very well received.”
Following her success in Maui, Hoehn moved onto her hometown in California and found all five photos needed there. Her efforts eventually spread to the entire state of California and beyond. Since she began her journey, news organizations in almost half of all 50 states have published her story as the search continues to put a photo with the approximately 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. To date, about 53,000 photos have been added to the Wall of Faces project.
“Putting a face with a name changes the whole dynamic of the wall,” she said. “It keeps our fallen heroes’ memories alive and will honor them. Our heroes’ stories and sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Hoehn encourages anyone with any photos or information to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. This could be anyone is who is related to a fallen soldier, or even a friend or a classmate to any of them.
“Even if you don’t have a photo but know which school any of these young men attended, it would be so helpful,” she added. “We need to obtain a photo of every single fallen hero whose names are etched on the wall.”
The two names Hoehn provided for Madison County are still without any accompanying photos. For anyone who may have a better quality photo of a name who already has a photo in the database, Hoehn encourages those as well.
“I do not wish for anyone to feel badly that their loved one (or) friend is not listed or forgotten,” she added. “We will never forget any of them.”
Hoehn also emphasized that contributing to the Wall of Faces is something near and dear to her heart. She said she also hopes to help those who survived the war feel honored and respected for their sacrifices.
“It always bothered me so much how the Vietnam veterans were mistreated when they returned,” she said. “I felt this was a way to honor Vietnam veterans. It has been quite a journey. I am so very proud to be a part of the Wall of Faces project.”
For more information on The Wall That Heals or the Wall of Faces project, visit www.vvmf.org/thewall.