RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia War Memorial will unveil a new exhibit honoring Virginia soldiers killed in action this Veteran's Day.
It's called “Who They Were: Lives Worth Remembering," and it highlights the lives of 32 Virginia men and women whose names are among the nearly 12,000 names of Virginia heroes inscribed on the War Memorial’s Shrine of Memory.
These heroes represent the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. They have many different backgrounds and were from localities throughout the state.
Jesse Smith, a curator with the Virginia War Memorial who worked to create the display, said it was the hardest exhibit he’s ever done because of the nature of the stories of these men and women.
In fact, one of the soldiers featured was Smith’s great-uncle Robert Long from Buena Vista.
Long was in the Air Force, and his he and his crew were lost in the English Channel after their crippled B-17 bomber attempted to return to base after a mission over Germany.
While they were never able to recover Long’s body, Smith hopes the exhibit gives visitors a better idea of who his uncle was when they see his photos, read his letters and see some of his other personal items.
"Each panel actually has a deeper story behind each one," said Smith. "You could probably write a book on every single person on our wall, so it's going to be really interesting. And I hope that the other family members who've come and see the exhibit will think that we did a good job."
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.
There will be a private viewing of the exhibit for the families of those 32 armed service members before it opens to the public following the War Memorial's annual Veteran's Day ceremony.