Virtual memorial only missing 6 pictures of fallen county veterans

EVERETT — Sally Hopkins saw her late brother’s name last year in a story about the Wall of Faces, a virtual memorial for veterans killed in the Vietnam War.

Edward Hopkins was one of 26 fallen Snohomish County men whose photo was missing from the website, which aims to put a face to every name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. A picture supplied by his sister now appears online. She remembered Ed Hopkins as a multi-sport athlete who loved music and dreamed of studying geology.

“It helps us because our loved ones aren’t forgotten and the sacrifice they made is not forgotten,” Sally Hopkins said. “I don’t want those stories to be lost.”

All told, there are 75 men from Snohomish County listed as Vietnam War casualties.

The picture of local vets killed in the conflict isn’t yet complete. A Hawaii woman has made it her mission to change that.

Janna Hoehn, a florist who lives on Maui, began focusing on Snohomish County last year. By the time Hoehn started contacting newspapers, she had 16 names to go.

Her efforts generated a newspaper article that Sally Hopkins read in the Yakima Herald-Republic. The Everett Daily Herald published a story about her quest in September.

Word got out. Hoehn received photos from Monroe High School and Olympia High School; a genealogist tracked down two more; siblings, girlfriends and a daughter supplied others.

She only has six photos left to find for Snohomish County, plus another case where the same picture is listed for two different Everett men.

“It’s really detective work,” she said.

One obstacle is the way the military identifies service members’ hometowns — by where they enlisted. That might not reflect where they grew up or went to school.

Take Edward Hopkins. His sister said he grew up in Colville and Port Townsend. He enlisted in Edmonds, where their mother was living at the time.

Hoehn points to other local cases she’s trying to crack.

Army Pfc. Stephen Busby’s hometown is listed as Arlington, but he’s buried in Cleburne, Texas.

Army warrant officer Dale Yateman’s home of record is Lynnwood. He’s buried in the San Francisco Bay Area city of San Bruno.

Older vets can be tricky. She’s had trouble locating information about Army Staff Sgt. Billie Landers, of Everett, who was born in 1926 and died at age 40.

There are 58,307 names on The Wall, the granite memorial to fallen Vietnam Veterans on the National Mall.

By last week, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund — the same group that built the memorial wall — had collected photos for nearly 41,000 fallen vets, communications specialist Latosha Adams said. That leaves more than 17,000 to go.

Hoehn, 59, had two cousins who served in Vietnam but she did not know anyone who died in the war. She grew interested in the Wall of Faces after visiting Washington, D.C., several years ago. She took an etching of a name on the wall and tracked down the man’s photo.

Later, she saw a news story about the Faces project and sent in the photo she had found. A few days later, Jan Scruggs, the founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, asked for her help.

She started by tracking down 42 photos of the fallen soldiers from Maui County, where she lives. She then turned her attention to six servicemen from her hometown, Hemet, California.

She’s now working to find pictures of Native American soldiers who died in the war, plus others from Washington, California and other western states.

“The easiest way to do it is county by county,” she said.

Army Sgt. Edward Arthur Hopkins was killed in combat on April 4, 1969. He was 26.

The fifth of eight children, family called him Ed or Eddie. Friends called him Hoppy. He played basketball and some football, but excelled in baseball, as a pitcher. He hunted and fished.

Sally Hopkins, a part-time substitute teacher who now lives in Yakima, was six years younger.

“He was a great guy,” she said. “He loved jazz, he loved Jimi Hendrix. He was really into music.”

Edward’s family opposed the war, but he had already been in the National Guard. He volunteered. Once oversees, he began to have doubts.

“You look back now and you really see what a horrible waste it was,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we weren’t proud of him.”

He was killed when the helicopter he was on was shot down in a landing zone. It happened in Cambodia, at a time when the U.S. government denied having any troops in that country.

Sally Hopkins hopes the story of her brother, and those of other soldiers who died in the Vietnam War, can teach younger generations about a traumatic period in U.S. history, when people often spat on or jeered at returning soldiers, rather than embracing them as heroes.

“I think it’s important,” she said. “Younger people don’t really know what Vietnam was or how it devastated this country.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Get involved

To submit photos or information, email Janna Hoehn at neverforgotten2014@gmail.com.

When people do not have photos, it’s still helpful to know which high school a soldier attended. Local volunteers are needed to do footwork on the project as well.

For more information, go to vvmf.org/thewall.

Photos of these six Snohomish County men are being sought:

*Stephen L. Busby, Arlington, 1949-1970

*Morris K. James, Lynnwood, 1942-1968

*Billie D. Landers, Everett, 1926-1966

*Steven J. Minkler, Lynnwood, 1952-1971

*Ricardo W. Regalado, Everett, 1949-1969

*Dale A. Yateman, Lynnwood, 1947-1969

Hoehn also needs help resolving a case where the same photo is listed for two different fallen servicemen from Everett: Grant Waugh and William Pelton. Waugh, an Air Force major, died in August 1970, at age 32. Pelton, a Marine corporal, was killed in September 1967, at age 21.

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