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New Exhibit Honoring Virginia Heroes Opening Veterans Day

Who They Were: Lives Worth Remembering,” a major new exhibit at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, will officially open to the public on Thursday, November 11, 2021, immediately following the Commonwealth’s Veteran Day Ceremony.  The ceremony will be held Thursday, November 11 at 11 a.m. EST.

The exhibit will highlight the lives of thirty-two Virginia men and women who were killed in action and whose names are among the nearly 12,000 names of Virginia heroes inscribed on the glass and stonewalls of the Memorial’s Shrine of Memory-20th Century and Shrine of Memory-Global War on Terrorism and Beyond.

“Our mission at the Virginia War Memorial is to honor and remember our fellow Virginians who gave the ultimate sacrifice defending our Nation and to pass on their stories of service and sacrifice,” said Dr. Clay Mountcastle, Virginia War Memorial Director. “This new exhibit uses personal photos and items, letters and artifacts from our collection to better tell the stories about a few of them so they are more than simply names on the walls in our Shrines of Memory.”

Mountcastle noted that the thirty-two fallen heroes featured in the exhibit represent the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. They have many different personal backgrounds and were from localities throughout the state. Those profiled served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Virginia War Memorial Curator Jesse Smith, who heads the team responsible for the new exhibit, said that it features the profile of sailor John A. Hildebrand, Jr. of Augusta County, a victim of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  The exhibit also includes the story of two cousins, Alfred and Leslie Gregory from Buckingham County, who enlisted in the Army on the same day and who both died on the same day during the Korean War.

The youngest veteran profiled in the exhibit is Leslie Jackson from Richmond, who was only 18 years old when she was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom on May 20, 2004.

Smith has a personal connection to one of those profiled – his great-uncle Robert Long from Buena Vista.  Long was part of a US Army Air Forces crew who was lost in the English Channel when his badly-crippled B-17 bomber attempted to return to base after a mission over Germany.

“It is our hope that this exhibit will give visitors a better idea of who these heroes were when they see their photos, read their letters, and see their personal items,” Smith said. “We are also hoping that relatives and friends of other men and women honored in our Shrines will contact us and donate photos and artifacts they may have so that we can add these to our collection and perhaps feature more of them in future exhibits.  Unfortunately, we simply don’t have photos for many of the heroes honored here.”

Who They Were: Lives Worth Remembering” will be open from November 11 through 2022.   There is no charge to visit the Virginia War Memorial to see this or the many other exhibits and documentary films in the Memorial’s Paul and Phyllis Galanti Education Center and C. Kenneth Wright Pavilion.

The exhibit is made possible in part by contributions from the Virginia War Memorial Foundation, TowneBank-Richmond, NewMarket Corporation, The Windsor Foundation Trust and The Peachtree House Foundation.

The mission of the Virginia War Memorial is to Honor Veterans, Preserve History, Educate Youth and Inspire Patriotism in All.  Dedicated in 1956, the Memorial includes the names of the nearly 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf wars and the Global War on Terrorism.  It is located at 621 South Belvidere Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220. For more information, please visit


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