Individualizing liberty: database offers “personalized salute” to veterans

By STEPHANIE BRUMFIELD / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – Historian David McCullough once said the best way to teach history is to tell stories, and this idea serves as the foundation of American Village’s Veterans Register of Honor, a new, digital database that will launch Sept. 24 and give veterans the opportunity to tell stories via photographs, videos, words and other mediums.

Once launched, the database can be accessed from the Veterans Shrine at American Village, which is where the database will be housed, or it can be accessed from the American Village website, providing worldwide access.

At the Veterans Shrine, videos and photos uploaded by veterans and their families will be spliced together with historical videos, giving context to the era in which that particular person served, said American Village CEO Tom Walker. The goal is to present something that is “unique and compelling,” Walker said.

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Lorne McAnally

“It’s not just some generic term – veteran,” Walker said. “This is someone’s son, someone’s brother, an aunt who is serving now in Iraq or Afghanistan…. It will be a unique way of reminding us that it’s service and sacrifice by individual people that has kept our country free.”

Walker said he hopes to have hundreds of thousands of veterans honored through the database within a few years.

Loren McAnally, a former Vietnam helicopter pilot with more than 20 years of service in the Army, has already been gathering material to submit. McAnally said he sees the project as a great way for previously untold stories to be made public.

“I know some veterans who have problems telling their own families (about their service),” McAnally said. “It’s sometimes easier to tell someone else or write it down. It’s just important to keep the legacy going.”

Walker said the database’s success is going to depend on individuals submitting themselves or submitting for their friends or family members who have served or who are currently serving.

There is no cost to submit, and Walker said you can go back and submit more information as you learn more.

Aside from story-telling, Walker said the other purpose of the database is to put things in perspective.

“If we know that liberty and freedom have not come cheaply to us, maybe we will take a little bit more responsibility in our civic lives to honor their service by our citizenship,” he said. “It really does present a human side to the price of liberty.”

While waiting on the website to launch, Walker suggests going ahead and gathering material to have everything together for when the website opens. He suggests downloading a questionnaire from Americanvillage.org and sitting down at the table with family members to gather information.