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Items left in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: a red rose sits on top of a worn pair of brown boots, with flags and letters positioned on either side.
Memorial Day, Vietnam Memorial, Washington, D.C. Photograph by Carol Highsmith, 2006.

VHP’s Newest Online Exhibit: In Memoriam

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Today, the Veterans History Project (VHP) launches a new online exhibit titled “In Memoriam: Honoring the Fallen,” featuring the stories of 15 servicemembers who died during their time in the military.

For many, Memorial Day may feel like nothing more than a day off from work, a holiday that serves to mark the start of summer or an opportunity for online sales. For those who have lost a loved one in service to our country, Memorial Day carries a far different meaning. As Patricia Barbee, whose husband John Wesley Barbee was killed during the Vietnam War, said in her oral history interview, “For me, Memorial Day is not for picnics and cookouts. It’s for remembering.”

With this online exhibit, we remember 15 individuals who gave their lives for their country. Serving in conflicts from World War through Iraq and Afghanistan, they represent a range of branches and backgrounds. Some—like Edwin Groce and Allen Sumner Jr.—are memorialized in their letters, diaries, and photographs, through which we glimpse their thoughts and feelings during their service. Others’ stories are told through the family members they left behind. Collected under the auspices of the Gold Star Families Voices Act, these oral histories reveal the impact of service not only on the fallen, but on their surviving children, spouses, siblings, and parents as well.

In my tenure with the Veterans History Project, I have often been struck by the similarity between the words “preserve” and “persevere.” In the context of the VHP archive, this combination of words takes on a new weight. As we preserve these servicemembers’ stories, their lives and legacies persevere. This Memorial Day, we honor their service and their sacrifices, and we remember.

We are grateful to all family members who have contributed their loved ones’ narratives to the Veterans History Project, whether through original materials or an oral history interview. Find out more about participating in the Veterans History Project through our website:




  1. Thank you for this beautiful, meaningful, heart-wrenching post and online exhibit.

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