Take a moment to consider that the world’s history is at our fingertips instantaneously. Whether you want to learn about ancient Egyptian burial practices or find the birthplace of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the answers are a few clicks away. However, history is not confined to ancient empires and famous poets and philosophers.
In 2019, The US Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration launched the Veterans Legacy Memorial Platform (VLM) with the goal of ensuring that no Veterans story is ever forgotten. VLM is an online memorial platform that gives families and friends of US Veterans the ability to pay tribute to their loved ones. Each memorial page contains important information, including deployments, decorations, ranks, and service branches.
Behind every Veteran is a collection of survivors who have been left behind
In time for Veterans Day, The US Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration announced that VLM now includes American Veterans who are interred in private cemeteries. American Veterans who have received a VA-provided gravesite marker since 1996 and are interred in 87 foreign countries are now present on the platform as well.
VLM has also reached a new milestone with nearly 10 million Veterans being memorialized on the platform. This includes over 73,000 contributions featured on VLM pages, such as photos, biographies, and personal tributes. James LaPaglia, a Digital Services Officer at the VA, who leads the VLM project, says that “What we’re seeing in content submitted by family members and others – they touch on issues common and important to the Veteran community today, to Veterans and survivors, and also important to the Department of Veteran Affairs”
As VLM grows, the opportunities for historical research also grow. Students, researchers, historians, and Veteran organizations use VLM to research Veterans and groups of Veterans, as well as contribute information, stories, and documents to their pages.
The VLM application and its storytelling features goes beyond online obituaries used by funeral homes to share information about the recently deceased. VLM utilizes Keeper Memorial’s interactive platform to tell a Veteran’s life story and share it with the world. Keeper Memorials is a collaborative space where friends and family can leave tribute messages, upload photos, like, share, comment, connect, and remember those who are dearly missed.
“Behind every Veteran is a collection of survivors who have been left behind… so caring for those survivors has been very important for the VA. We can do that in a very physical way… but to provide the experience in a digital way just takes that experience beyond a one-off experience for one family or one collection of survivors at one time, at one cemetery, at one location to increase it in scope.” – James LaPaglia, Digital Services Officer, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
If you have a loved one who served in the US military and is interred in VA National Cemeteries, VA grant-funded cemeteries, DoD-managed cemeteries (including Arlington National Cemetery); U.S. Park Service National Cemeteries, and thousands of private cemeteries where Veterans have received a VA-provided gravesite marker since 1996, you can find and contribute to their memorial page here: va.gov/remember