‘We Can Reach People, Convey the Veteran Experience’

Program connects incredible stories of service and sacrifice with our academies' young people and more

The Veterans Legacy Program shares the stories of U.S. veterans enshrined in our national cemeteries. Through educational outreach programs and development of digital resources, the program enhances memorialization and increases awareness of the service and sacrifice of our nation’s veterans.

The Veterans Legacy Program is offering a new way for Americans to connect with their history. The Veterans Administration National Cemetery Administration (NCA) program is forging partnerships and internships with academic institutions to engage students and professors alike in discovering the stories of service and sacrifice found in the VA’s national cemeteries.

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This summer, the NCA welcomed two cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point, who will assist cemetery directors in service and outreach programs that connect veteran legacies found in the cemeteries with the community.

Prior to these assignments at Fort Snelling and Santa Fe National Cemeteries, the USMA cadets will work closely with Dr. Bryce Carpenter, NCA’s educational outreach programs officer in Washington, D.C.

Carpenter, who also oversees NCA’s Veterans Legacy Program, said he hopes to continue this partnership with West Point and hopes to expand internship opportunities with other service academies. He also believes teaching the importance of memorializing veterans within the service is a positive step in future collaboration, and hopes to provide a new understanding of American history through veterans.

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“This academic internship experience is one of many opportunities for cadets to learn in the professional environment of a federal agency,” Carpenter said. “The cadets began their internship in Washington, D.C., where they visited Alexandria and Quantico National Cemeteries and met with NCA senior staff and program officers. They also visited with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, where they learned how to record oral histories from veterans and their families.”

One cadet, who is interning at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, said she didn’t previously understand how VA national cemeteries contributed to veteran memorialization and learning, but recognized their importance after visiting Alexandria and Quantico National Cemeteries.

Related: Guard Duty at The Tomb of the Unknowns: Never More Sacred

“We can reach people and convey the veteran experience by using national cemeteries as places of learning,” said the St. Paul, Minnesota, native. “I grew up near Fort Snelling National Cemetery, so it means a lot to go home and give back to the community. This internship has great importance to me. My great-grandfather was a veteran and is buried at the cemetery. Teaching the public about the veteran’s experience is a good thing.”

USMA cadets receive training in military science, history, and tactics. The internship at the NCA offers a way to gain hands-on experience to supplement research and learning outside of the classroom and the opportunity to explore specific disciplines in greater depth.

Related: A New Shot at ‘Home Sweet Home’ for Our Neediest Veterans

The VA’s national cemeteries are shrines where we can gather to honor those who have served in uniform. The NCA manages 135 national cemeteries with approximately 3.5 million veterans interred in them. While the USMA cadet interns are researching only a small percentage of all our honored veterans, they have a new understanding of what each gravesite marker represents. The cemetery is a final resting place for our veterans, but it can also be a place of learning for future generations where we connect with our community history through the veteran experience.

Future generations can connect with our community history through the veteran experience.

Memories matter for every veteran and their family. Every cemetery is full of unique American stories: women and men who changed the world. Through the Veterans Legacy Program, we can connect with history, discover the stories of service and sacrifice, and honor those who served.

Dr. Katherine (Kat) Harris is a veteran spouse, expat, and former military contractor with over 20 years of expertise in military/family transition, career counseling, higher education, organizational strategic planning, and international relations. An OpsLens contributor, she has conducted seminars and workshops for many Department of Army commands. She served as a translator and liaison for American, British, French and German civilian/military communities in Berlin and Helmstedt, Germany. This OpsLens article is used by permission.

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