The Veterans Legacy Memorial project run by the Department of Veterans Affairs is now including ex-service members buried at 27 cemeteries managed by the Air Force, Navy, and Army, including Arlington National Cemetery.
Before Memorial Day, VA officials said the expansion adds more than 300,000 veterans to the online memorial that has pages for about 4.8 million veterans, Military.com reported.
Each memorial page has a veteran's date of birth and death, date or era of military service, grave location, and photo of grave if available. The site also lets family members, friends, and colleagues share photos, documents, and memories.
Since it went fully interactive on Memorial Day weekend in 2021, more than 58,000 items have been uploaded to veterans' pages, James LaPaglia, digital services officer for the National Cemetery Administration, told the military news outlet.
For example, LaPaglia told the outlet that on Marine Corps Gunnery St. Robert Monroe's page, family, and friends have uploaded photos and added information about the Vietnam vet's service, awards, and career. His wife, Linda Monroe, often leaves messages to him, the outlet noted.
"Instead of what you see at a cemetery, with someone standing at a headstone talking to their late husband or late son, late daughter or spouse, this is happening virtually," LaPaglia told the news outlet last week. "We see people grieve, we see people telling funny stories. We see just the gamut of emotion."
The Veterans Legacy Memorial launched in 2019, initially as a static site providing basic details on 3.7 million veterans buried in the VA's 155 national cemeteries. The project was expanded in 2021 to include VA-supported state, tribal, and territorial veterans cemeteries, and was broadened in 2022 to include two National Park Service cemeteries.
The addition this year of four Air Force, five Navy, and 18 Army-run cemeteries includes the most requested location, Arlington National Cemetery — "something our users have been asking for from the beginning," LaPaglia said.
"This is an exciting expansion, for the first time going outside the VA to a different database from a different department," LaPaglia said.
The move, however, depends on the reliability of other organizations' databases, which Military.com noted isn't always accurate, including inaccuracies and misspellings.
"I think last year we took in about 300 of those issues and worked with cemeteries to get those corrected or records added," LaPaglia said. "The time it takes to negotiate that and to find documentation to support what people claim might be erroneous or to fix databases can happen the same day [or] it can take several days or weeks to figure it out."
LaPaglia said that in addition to ensuring all veterans interred at national and Defense Department cemeteries are represented on the site, the VA's ultimate goal is to have a page for every veteran regardless of burial site.
This fall, it plans to tap into the VA database of markers ordered for placement on veteran graves in private cemeteries, another 5 million records. The VA is also in talks with the American Battle Monuments Commission, which manages 26 American military cemeteries overseas.
After that, there are challenges such as accounting for veterans whose remains "might be on a mantelpiece somewhere, scattered somewhere or buried at sea."
"We have more development work to do. We're excited about it," LaPaglia said.
LaPaglia urged people to go to a veteran's page on Memorial Day.
"After the barbecues and kayaking, take some time to go to [the Veterans Legacy Memorial]. Find your veterans. Show their memories," he said.
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