Michael Gene Vinassa (1946-1966) Distinguished Service Cross
Photo 1959 at age 13
For the past several years now, I have celebrated Memorial Day by writing about and re-posting information about two of my high school buddies who died in the Vietnam war, Michael Vinassa and Dorian Houser. Now I have an update on one of them, (Michael).
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Janna Hoehn and Dana Kwist, two representatives of Wall of Faces, a project dedicated to locating and posting photos of each of the 58,000+ troops killed in Vietnam. This project is part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Faces Never Forgotten Program. The VVMF Education Center, located between the Vietnam Memorial and Lincoln Monument in Washington DC, exhibits the photos.
For the overwhelming majority of these, photos are readily available, but for some, it has been harder. Such was especially the case with Mike. The good folks at Wall of Faces had read my online postings about Mike. and thus, reached out to me. Needless to say, while I didn't have any photos of Mike myself, I volunteered to help with my own contacts and former friends.
Just to give you an idea of how challenging the task was, Wall of Faces had gone through high school yearbooks, army post photos, newspaper articles, obits, all without success. I myself contacted Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills, where Mike is buried next to his mother. I spoke to two people there who were most helpful and cooperative, but Forest Lawn had no photos in their records. I reached out to those friends of ours who I still had contact with. I searched the websites of the three Army posts where Mike had trained before going to Vietnam. I enlisted the help of two retired DEA agents who are now private investigators, John Marcello and John Hudock of the Phoenix Investigative Group, one of whom (Marcello) is a Vietnam vet himself. They contributed their time pro bono and came up with some fascinating details about Mike's family. All the while, a team of about 5-6 Wall of Faces researchers were digging up details and leads and writing letters. We tried to track down Mike's fiancee and best friend, up to now without success.
Then, just last night, we hit paydirt.
One of our mutual high school friends, Kenny Easum, now living in Wisconsin, dug up a 60-year-old photo of Mike from his junior high school yearbook from 1959. There was Mike in the 7th grade, 13 years old. I passed the photo along, and needless to say, we were all ecstatic.
Here is a message I received this morning from Sue Rice of VVMF.
"To everyone involved with the finding of Michael Vinassa's photo,. I want to express my sincere appreciation. Michael has been an exceptional hard find. I will be taking his photo to our next annual 1-8 Jumping Mustang reunion in Anaheim. Our 34th annual reunion will be held from Sep 5-8, at the Sheraton Park Hotel, opening ceremony with flag raising at 9 am sharp.
1855 South Harbor Blvd,
Anaheim CA 92802
If anyone lives in the area, I would loved to meet you and introduce you to the Host, Mike Price.
Please pass this info on to anyone you choose.
I will await the posting of Michael's photo on the VVMF wall of faces."
Honor and Courage
Needless to say, I would be honored to attend the above reunion. Unfortunately, it will coincide with my own army reunion coming up in Wyoming. If there is any way I can stop by on the way to the airport, I will try my hardest.
Here is how Mike earned the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation's highest award for battlefield bravery after the Congressional Medal of Honor.
It has been an honor to assist Wall of Faces in this effort to make a final tribute to Mike's memory. My thanks go out to all who assisted in this effort. Most of all, I want to thank the Wall of Faces team for all they do.
-Together We Served.com