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The organizing committee for the Blue Ridge Veterans Memorial and American Legion Post #245, in partnership with ProNets Business Computer Solutions, have launched a free database chronicling the history of the area’s veterans.
The Blue Ridge Veterans Registry Database is live and available for use by the general public. By visiting the website, locals can search for family members or friends with a military past and review their records, and even submit additional information.
In conjunction with the ongoing development of the veterans memorial at the Galax Public Library, a parallel project has been the creation of a veterans’ registry database. The objective of the registry is to compile a single database of all area veterans from all periods of time, from the Revolutionary War to the present.
The database contains records for more than 6,300 veterans so far, according to Frank Plichta, a coordinator for the project.
Veterans with any connection to the Blue Ridge area, who have served in the uniformed services in any branch of the military and at any time in the country’s history, are eligible for inclusion, he said.
Frank and his wife, Sharon, have worked for more than four years gathering information about local veterans from a variety of sources, including military discharge and service records, historical databases, the National Archives in Washington D.C., membership lists of veterans’ organizations, obituaries and data submitted by veterans.
“I went to the cemetery, and walked around with a camera… we went to any place we could think of to get information,” Frank said.
Sharon was credited for putting together the data that was fed into the website. “It has been a labor of love. I think of the names of all of the veterans we have listed, and I think of the sacrifices they made… I admit that I got emotional a couple of times,” she said.
“Now that the registry is available to the general public, individuals have an opportunity to add other family veterans to the database,” Frank said. They can also correct incomplete or inaccurate data. “Since the information came from a variety of data sources, the sources were not necessarily complete in all of the data elements recorded,” he said.
He hopes that the community will help them fill in the blanks.
ProNets has provided technical aspects, as well as a host location for the database. “I knew John Ayers from years ago, and he offered his services to the project… We gave them the information, and they have worked their magic with it,” he said. Eugene McCurdy and Nick Eldridge are recognized as the talents behind converting the database into something that could be used for this project. “Without their assistance, this project might not have seen the light of day.”
Both tech gurus admitted that this project was personal to them, as well. Eugene’s father was a veteran, and had told stories and shared photos with him about his time overseas. “This project reminded me of him.”
Nick also knows several friends who have served during the war in Afghanistan.
The odds of someone knowing a veteran personally, Frank said, are fairly high. “Almost every family has been touched by a veteran somehow.”
Now that the project is finished, the group is excited to bring another resource for remembering the heroes of our past and present. “This is one more way in which our local veterans, during times of both war and peace, may be acknowledged for their service to our country,” Frank said.