Veterans Legacy Memorial
I never met U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant (MSGT) Kerry D. Songer, but I can tell you a lot about him.
He served abroad in the Middle East and the Republic of Korea, and at (then) Schriever Air Force Base outside of Colorado Springs as a part of the 91st Missile Wing. He began his career by being named the Basic Training Honor Graduate and ended it earning a Meritorious Service Medal. He wore #11 on the many jerseys for his competitive and recreational sports teams – and was Minot AFB Athlete of the Year three times. He was married to Tammy and had a daughter named Kacey.
MSGT Songer is interred at Pikes Peak National Cemetery, Section 7, Site 72. He’s been there since December 12, 2022.
Kerry lived for 58 years and served his country for 24 years.
I know about Kerry because family and friends contributed to his Veterans Legacy Memorial profile page.
The Veterans Legacy Memorial (www.vlm.cem.va.gov) is the nation’s first digital platform dedicated entirely to the memory of more than 4.8 million veterans interred in VA-managed and VA funded cemeteries, DoD-managed cemeteries, and two U.S. Park Service Cemeteries. This month, VA added 27 DoD cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery.
Here in Colorado, there are nearly 116,000 pages of veterans interred at Fort Logan National Cemetery (Denver), Fort Lyon National Cemetery (Las Animas), Pikes Peak National Cemetery (Colorado Springs), U.S. Air Force Academy Cemetery (Colorado Springs), and Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado (Grand Junction).
Launched in 2019, VLM displays individual Veteran profile pages with military service and cemetery information. This publicly available information is gathered from VA records and includes service branch with logo, dates of birth and death, rank, war period, decorations, emblem of belief, and cemetery details (address and phone, clickable map, gravesite, and interment date).
VLM interactive features allow family, friends, and others to submit tributes (comments), images, biographical information, and historical documents; create their Veteran’s military service and personal achievements timeline; and generate a Word Cloud that describes their Veteran. “Generous,” “forever,” and “storyteller” are the three most popular words on Kerry’s page.
The website also allows visitors to share Veteran profile pages by email and post them to social media. Users can "Follow a Veteran" to receive email alerts when new content is added to that Veteran's page.
“VLM complements the physical cemetery experience where loved ones can visit their Veteran in the solitude of these solemn spaces,” James LaPaglia, digital services officer at VA’s National Cemetery Administration, shared with me recently. “It takes the memorialization experience beyond the confines of cemetery walls to a worldwide audience who can create and maintain in perpetuity the legacy of these American patriots.”
Eventually, VLM wants to have a page for all Veterans, no matter their final resting place.
Kerry may no longer be with us physically, but his legacy continues through this innovative platform that allows friends to contribute, family members to remember, and people like you and me to learn.
Here are two specific things you can do to honor a veteran’s legacy as we recognize Memorial Day tomorrow.
First, share this website with your colleagues who may not be aware. A basic search at www.va.gov/remember using first and last name will bring up a Veteran’s page. To narrow the search, users can filter by branch of service, year of death, or cemetery. The advanced search function also allows users to add other filters including war period, date of birth, and decoration.
Second, consider adding content for a veteran you know is interred at one of the cemeteries listed above. Any user can view VLM pages and submit content. Logging in and registering with VLM using an ID.me account will let a user contribute content without submitting a name and email address each time. Users can also “like” other user-submitted content and permit a user to Follow a Veteran. Users can submit images/photos and content using various text fields, drop-down choices, and drop & drag options. VLM moderators review all submitted user content before posting to veteran pages to ensure it conforms to the VLM User Policy and appropriately honors veterans.
Find your veterans today at www.va.gov/remember and contribute to their legacies.
Thanks for allowing me to walk alongside you behind friendly lines.