Veterans, now is the time to preserve your military heritage

Photo by videodet/Getty Images; St. George News

CEDAR CITY — Memorial Day can be a very difficult time for veterans, especially if they knew someone who wasn’t as fortunate as they were to make it home from acting in service of their country. However, the American War Library believes it’s important for veterans to start thinking about preserving their military heritage and planning to do so now, especially if there is a chance of being called back into service.

The American War Library compiled the following list of suggestions for veterans to consider in order to assure that future generations have access to the veteran’s military heritage:

  1. Collect copies of all of your military documents and place them in a fireproof container
  2. Make several copies of your documents and distribute them to younger family members for additional safekeeping
  3. Maintain a written record of all of your military training and awards — such as your DD-214, DD-215(s) and your 201A Military Authorizations Report
  4. Sign a Military Medal Last Will and Testament for the distribution of your military hardware
  5. Keep current your military information and place a military photo in your personal listing in the Worldwide Military Personnel Database
  6. Ensure that all of your family members — both living and deceased — are listed in the Worldwide Military Personnel Database and that a living contact person’s information is available
  7. If you or a family member is a recipient of a Grand Medal — top five military awards in all service branches — make sure the names are listed in the medal roster of recipients that is also accessible on the Worldwide Military Personnel Database

Caleb Vadnais, Veterans Affairs coordinator of the recently opened Southern Utah University Veterans Support and Resource Center, said he liked the idea of this list and that he would actually add a couple additional suggestions.

“It’s taking care of yourself and taking care of your kids,” Vadnais said. “That way your military service isn’t a burden on your kids or your spouse whenever you pass.”

Having a plan for distributing medals is something that Vadnais agreed was very important. He said:

That’s something that many older veterans don’t think about because they don’t think anything about their medals, but their kids do. You pass on, and then it’s ‘dad’s medals,’ and you have three kids and everybody wants dad’s medals. And dad never thought about it because to him, it’s just a medal.

Another suggestion for veterans, Vadnais said, is making sure family members know which specific Veterans Affairs — or VA — location to contact upon the veteran’s passing. Family members can’t just call any VA office.

Photo by GWImages/Getty Images; St. George News
Photo by GWImages/Getty Images; St. George News

“You have to call the regional VA that dad was going to,” Vadnais said. “A lot of veterans who have successful careers don’t use their VA benefits until they die, and most family members have no idea that dad even had the opportunity to go to a VA hospital. … Then the VA pays out for a plot and helps with the tombstone.”

It is also important for family members to know whether the veteran wants the honor guard at their funeral, Vadnais said.

“Most services, like the Marine Corps, if a veteran or service member dies, the family member calls up and asks for a funeral detail, and they’ll send one.”

Specific to Memorial Day, Vadnais said, most cemeteries in the U.S. will put out an American flag next to the headstone of those who served. However, Vadnais said, it’s important that family members know if this is something the veteran wants to have done.

“If you don’t tell your family that you don’t want that to happen,” Vadnais said, “it will more or less happen by default.”

Not wishing to have the flag displayed isn’t meant disrespectfully, Vadnais said.

“We’ve actually talked to a few (veterans) and they don’t want it,” he said, “because they go to cemeteries after Memorial Day, and they see the flags are faded or get knocked down by lawnmowers and get damaged. If somebody is not going to be there to take care of the flag, they don’t want it there.”

Southern Utah University and the Veterans Center acknowledge Memorial Day, Vadnais said, but due to the low number of students on campus at the time, they don’t hold formal events on the campus.

However, the Veterans Center — which is available to both students and members of the community — will continue to be open through the summer Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Rm. 113 of the Sharwan Smith Student Center, 351 W. University Blvd., Cedar City.

Vadnais said he also wanted the public to know that on June 24, Southern Utah University would be officially designated as a “Purple Heart Campus,” in honor of their Purple Heart recipients.

“We will be the first institution of higher learning in the state of Utah to receive this award,” Vadnais said.

Email: pdail@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Henry May 29, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    I suggest a change to items (1) thru (3) above, regarding copies of military orders, training, and award certificates. For a career military vet, they have hundreds of pages of documents. Rather than saving paper copies, scan the documents. Save one set on a flash disk stored in a fireproof box, another on a cloud or hard drive.

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