Register of Honor memorializes veterans

MONTEVALLO – More than 3,000 veterans have been added to the Register of Honor at American Village since its founding in 2014, but officials would like to see many more included in a resource that is free and easy to use.

“There are hundreds of thousands of veterans still living in Alabama, and we want every one of those to be included, so we have some work to do,” said Melanie Poole with the American Village Citizenship Trust.

The Veterans Register of Honor is an online database that is featured at American Village’s National Veterans Shrine.

“We take the information that you have submitted on the website, and in the Veterans Shrine, we pair that with video content we have created,” Poole said.

The result is a “mini movie salute” for each veteran that includes clips from wars he or she served during and pins on a digital globe for places the veteran was stationed and where he or she is interred, if applicable.

Eight computer kiosks are available for visitors to search for veterans by last name or hometown and then generate the videos.

The Register has the capacity to house information about hundreds of thousands of veterans, and inclusion is open all branches of the military and places of residence.

“It’s not limited to Alabama veterans,” Poole said. “It’s for anyone who served under the flag of the United States.”

Once a veteran is entered in the Register, the user who created their page can go back in and add details, photos and even videos as they are obtained through research.

Poole encouraged friends or relatives of living veterans to make smart phone video of an interview with them to be uploaded to the Register.

For the less computer savvy, printed forms are available at the Shrine that can be mailed.

Poole said the Shrine, which features pieces by a renowned artist, wall graphics and interactive technology, is not a museum of war but instead a tribute to the individuals who have sacrificed for liberty.

“Every veteran is someone’s child, and those are the stories we tell—the choices they made in their lives, who they were and who they are, what they did for our country, “ Poole said. “Most importantly, the No. 1 thing we owe them is to remember them.”

American Village founder and president Tom Walker worked with national and state officials to locate the Alabama National Cemetery adjacent to American Village, and to build the National Veterans Shrine and Register of Honor.

“The Village teaches tens of thousands of students each year that freedom is not free, and has come about only by the personal service and sacrifice of our veterans and active military in every generation since American won its independence in 1776,” Walker said. “I feel it is important to lift up that service – to honor it, to salute it – and thereby lift up, honor, and salute the men and women in every generation who have served our country. Each took an oath to defend our country and our Constitution. They each put it all on the line – and we are the beneficiaries of that service.”

The Register of Honor is unique in the state and region, and is pioneering the technology in the United States, Walker said.

Underneath the statuary figure of “Liberty Uniting the Colonies” at the Veterans Shrine, there are enshrined soils taken from battlefields around the world where American veterans and active military shed their life’s blood for the cause of liberty.

“These brave Americans did not go to those foreign lands to seek gold, glory or territory,” Walker said. “They came from their homes and in distant and foreboding places incurred injury and death to defend human freedom—to protect the liberty espoused in our Declaration of Independence—one of the great gifts of our Creator.

“The challenge today—in the course of routine and casual living—is to get families to make the time and go to the website Veteransregisterofhonor.com. In just a few minutes time they can honor their loved one, living or dead. I have proudly entered information about my grandfather who served in France in the U.S. Army in World War I and my father who served in the Navy in the Pacific in World War II. I want their service to be remembered, and I hope that all Alabamians will act to remember and honor their loved ones.”