Life Stories ›

Richmond Remembers Veterans with the Virginia War Memorial

Virginia War Memorial

"Tell all who enjoy freedom of the deeds and sacrifices required for freedom to flourish"

We at Richmond Remembers care -- very, very much -- about our military heroes, and we were honored to sit down with Dr. Clay Mountcastle. We could think of no better person than the Director of the Virginia War Memorial to share ways for families to "Tell all who enjoy freedom of the deeds and sacrifices required for freedom to flourish"

Dr. Clay Mountcastle was appointed Director of the Virginia War Memorial in June 2016. A retired US Army officer, his military service took him to Germany, South Korea and Iraq and on assignments with the 82nd Airborne Division, US Army 5th Corps and US Army Special Operations Command.He is a 1994 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and holds a Masters and PhD in History from Duke University.  Most recently, he served as the Professor of Military History at the University of Washington in Seattle and as an Assistant Professor of Military History at the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Lee, Virginia. He is the author of Punitive War: Confederate Guerillas and Union Reprisals and numerous articles published in Civil War Monitor and other military history publications. He and his wife, Dr. Sally Mountcastle, and their three children live in Chesterfield County, Virginia.

What are some unique ways for families to celebrate their loved ones’ service?
Personal stories mean everything, and we encourage family members to ask their veteran to tell their story of service, either at a group setting or one on one.  These can be some of the most engaging, worthwhile conversations that a family can have and for the veteran, to be asked for their story is often a very rewarding experience, even if it can be very emotional. 

Do you see differences between conflicts on how people reflect on their loved ones’ service?
There certainly does seem to be a very positive mystique, almost nostalgia, attached to the World War II veteran.  We’ve all heard the terms “Greatest Generation” and “The Good War” and these characterizations certainly reflect how that conflict and its participants are remembered. In past years, the veterans of the subsequent wars in Korea and, most certainly, Vietnam were largely overshadowed by their predecessors from WWII, and they often said as much. In recent years, however, there has been a very noticeable, positive effort to acknowledge the service and sacrifices of all veterans. It’s as if the recent conflicts Iraq and Afghanistan have reminded us that all generations of veterans are “great.”  

Do you have tips and resources for families who would like to research their loved ones’ service record?
Always start online, it can save you a lot of time. Great resources like the US Army Center of Military History,, or the National Archive database, can be great starting points and may provide all the information you need to know.  If not, it’s a good idea to check with local historical societies or even the local library.  Often times, military units maintain their own lineage and historical chapters, so if you know what outfit your loved served with, you can check with those organizations.  Examples would be the 82nd Airborne Association or the USS Nimitz Association. 

How can people best discuss a loved ones’ service record with children?
Families should trust in History to help introduce the younger generation to the idea of military service and military conflict.  There are many books, studies, and online resources directed toward younger learners today that can be useful in presenting such a potentially complicated topic.  But the idea is to forge ahead and have that discussion with children, no matter how it comes up, because there is real value in an early introduction to the concept of service and sacrifice.  Don’t avoid or hide the past from kids, even if the subject matter is tough. Most children are more than happy to learn how their family members fought for the country.

What one thing would you like to share with someone visiting the War Memorial this Veteran’s Day?  
That there is a story behind every one of the nearly 12,000 names listed at the Virginia War Memorial: a story of commitment, love to the country and to their families, and to the idea of America that drove them to serve.  We tell stories because we have to, it’s what keeps these names alive.  Visitors to the Virginia War Memorial discover that we are much more than a nice place to honor those that have died defending our nation, we are a living memorial dedicated to explaining who they were and why they paid the ultimate sacrifice. 

Are there any special events planned at the Memorial to commemorate Veteran's Day?
We typically host a Commonwealth-wide ceremony, but due to ongoing construction at the Memorial the event has been moved Dogwood Dell Ampitheater. We hope to see everyone there!

Event: Commonwealth Veteran's Day Ceremony
Date and time: 
Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 11:00am to 12:00pm
Location: Dogwood Dell Amphitheater, 600 South Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23220
Map it!

621 S. Belvidere St.
Richmond, VA 23220

 to help keep this monument to history and sacrifice free to the public.

Have a veteran whose life you'd like to remember? Richmond Remembers is proud to provide free permanent Military Tributes. Just use the code "RVAVA" during checkout. Contact [email protected] with any questions.