Cover Story

Funds for Remembrance

Virginia's electric cooperatives are proud to support the mission of the Virginia War memorial.

Former Vietnam POW Paul Galanti and electric cooperative CEO Jack Reasor reflect on the thousands of Virginias who gave their lives in service to their country.

 

Etched in stone and glass on a hill in Richmond, overlooking the majestic James River, are the names of more than 11,600 Virginia heroes.

These are Virginians who gave the last full measure — Virginians who sacrificed their lives for their country. They are remembered in the Virginia War Memorial.

The Virginia War Memorial honors all Virginia veterans, but those who were killed in action during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm are particularly honored in the memorial’s Shrine of Memory.  Plans are underway to honor Virginians killed in action in the War on Terror; over 100 Virginians have been killed at the hands of the enemy thus far in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The memorial’s mission is “to Honor our Veterans, Preserve our History, Educate our Children, and Inspire Patriotism in All.”

Authorized in 1950 by an act of the Virginia General Assembly and completed in 1955, the memorial is located on the northeast side of the Lee Bridge, only blocks from the city’s bustling downtown business district. While located in the state’s capital, the names etched upon the memorial’s walls are those of people from all across the Old Dominion. Virginia communities, large and small, have produced those heroes.

This portait of Paul and Phyllis Galanti, which hangs in the memorial's auditorium, appeared on the cover of Newsweek in 1973. Galanti is quick to humbly defer cerdit to his bride.

Many of the communities represented in the Shrine of Memory are towns and counties served by electric cooperatives.

“The Virginia War Memorial is a hallowed place, a sacred shrine to our veterans, and stands as a particularly poignant reminder of how many of our native sons and daughters have given their lives in service to our nation,” notes Jack Reasor, CEO of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative.

“We’re proud to support this memorial, and the fighting men and women that it honors,” Reasor adds.

Understanding the urgent need to educate on events half a century past, the memorial’s trustees commissioned privately funded educational programs in 1997. This initiative principally used personal stories of sacrifice and honor to teach history and inspire patriotism.

The centerpiece of the memorial’s educational programs is its award-winning Virginians at War interview and film program. So far, over 800 veterans from across Virginia have been interviewed, creating an extensive database for historians and students to research individuals’ stories and perceptions. Fourteen films have been completed. In 2004, six of them were approved for Virginia’s Standards of Learning program and distributed to more than 1,400 public and private intermediate and high schools in Virginia, as well as other veteran groups and military units. This was accomplished at no cost to the schools or the Virginia taxpayers.

The Virginians at War series, combined with other efforts, has significantly increased the Virginia War Memorial’s awareness with numerous groups in the local region and throughout the Commonwealth, and has highlighted the message of the “Price of Freedom.” The memorial has added staff and approximately 40 volunteers to meet the increasing demand for its educational offerings and to assist with increased visitors. 

Facilities Stretched to Capacity

With over 20,000 people from 42 states and 19 countries visiting the memorial in 2007, the facilities are stretched to the breaking point. Some groups must be turned away and individual visitors cannot be provided educational support because the single auditorium cannot accommodate  multiple groups for education and meetings. The memorial is also used by active military forces for events such as homecomings from the War on Terror.

A 17,300-square-foot education center is planned to alleviate the increasing demand on the facilities, to expand the educational opportunities and outreach for school children and visitors, and to provide for adequate visitor services. Projected cost of the project is $8.1 million.

The center will be named for two American heroes, Virginians Paul and Phyllis Galanti. Paul, a Naval aviator, was shot down over Vietnam and held prisoner for more than six years. His wife, Phyllis, led the civilian effort back home to ensure that American POWs were not forgotten. 

Harry H. Warner, Jr., executive director of the Virginia War Memorial Educational Foundation, shares plans for the memorial's proposed expansion with namesake Paul Galanti and electric cooperatives representatives David Hudgins and Jack Reasor.

The Paul and Phyllis Galanti Education Center campaign is seeking to raise slightly more than $2 million of the $8.1 million project from private sources. The Commonwealth of Virginia has committed to the remaining $6.05 million once the private funds have been raised. The new center will provide:

--A multi-purpose room and a training room to accommodate increasing school field trips, veteran groups, active military and general visitors and tourists. 

---A dedicated theater to display the memorial’s award-winning educational film series, Virginians at War, which cannot be shown today if the existing auditorium is in use.

---Space for proper storage and access to the Memorial Research Library, which consists of books, posters, magazines, newspapers and films, currently unavailable for educational research and the general public.

---Exhibit space to highlight the wars in which our veterans have served and sacrificed. 

---Space for the memorial’s Salute to the Vir­ginia Veterans computer educational programs. 

---Permanent staff, volunteer, and artifact/ exhibit storage space currently housed in three overcrowded temporary trailers. 

----Sufficient improved outdoor amphitheatre facilities for patriotic and veterans’ events at the memorial, currently supported by numerous off-site resources.

“By educating this and future generations, together the Commonwealth and its citizens can create a lasting tribute to the state’s sons and daughters who served in the armed forces,” says Harry H. Warner, Jr., executive director of the Virginia War Memorial Educational Foundation. “Completing the Paul and Phyllis Galanti Education Center will ensure that their duty and service protecting our and others’ freedoms will never be forgotten,” he adds.

Anyone interested in helping support this effort, financially or otherwise, may contact Harry Warner at (804) 786-2060, or visit www.vawarmemorial.org.

 

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