Ahead of Veterans Day celebrations, federal officials have added roughly 5 million veterans buried at private cemeteries to the Veterans Legacy Memorial project, nearly doubling the number of individuals honored with online memorial pages.
The dramatic expansion of the four-year-old initiative means that about one-quarter of all veterans ever to serve in American history are listed in the online repository. Before now, only individuals buried in Veterans Affairs cemeteries, military cemeteries and other government sites were included.
“This is our most ambitious expansion of the project since its creation, and brings the online platform to private cemeteries large and small across the country, wherever those heroes have been laid to rest,” Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Matt Quinn said.
“Now these family members and their fellow veterans can access the personal pages of their loved ones and upload photographs and other mementos to help preserve their legacies.”
The Veterans Legacy Memorial project was launched as a way for the American public to learn about individuals who served in the military even when they can’t physically visit their final resting sites. It also gives family and friends another way to carry on their memory, through online stories and tributes.
The registry includes the basic military service records of the deceased and — when available — the location of their final resting place. Family members can also submit photos, award citations and other historic documents to be included in the listings.
Earlier this year, VA officials announced they had added about 300,000 names of individuals interred at national cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. At the time, they said they hoped to add private cemeteries in future updates, but were unsure how long that work might take.
James LaPaglia, program officer for the Veterans Legacy Memorial, said an influx of additional information specialists helped officials comb through VA databases to quickly add millions of names to the list.
The new additions include veterans whose families have requested headstones or gravesite medallions from VA, both of which are provided free of charge based on eligibility rules. LaPaglia said it includes veterans buried in 87 different countries and some individuals who served as far back as the American Revolution.
LaPaglia said he is hopeful the rapid expansion of the project just before Veterans Day will help attract more attention to the online memorials. About 72,000 tributes have been posted to veterans’ profile pages since the site launched in 2019, including family photos and remembrances from military colleagues.
More information on the project is available at the Veterans Legacy Memorial website.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.