The nation’s first digital platform dedicated to veterans interred in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ national cemeteries is enabling family members to tell their loved ones’ legacies amid new improvements.
Since May, users of the Veterans Legacy Memorial have had an optimized experience on mobile devices thanks to a new update that included re-designed memorial, tributes and historical sections of veterans’ profile pages.
For surviving spouse Linda Monroe, VLM has allowed her to preserve the legacy of her late husband, Bob.
“It was really hard when he got sick,” Monroe told GovCIO Media & Research. “We had to take him to the emergency room [during the pandemic] and couldn’t be there.”
Monroe actively posts life updates on Bob’s veteran profile, including sharing photos of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
More than 4.3 million veterans are laid to rest at VA-managed and VA-funded cemeteries and have associated VLM profiles that are managed by family members. The team at the National Cemetery Administration continues to refine the platform with new iterations and enhancements.
“Those interactive experiences have really taken off over the last year or so to really allow survivors and friends and families that digital experience for remembering their veteran no matter where they are,” NCA Digital Services Chief James LaPaglia told GovCIO Media & Research.
LaPaglia explained the team has conducted user groups with individuals like Monroe to talk about the user experience of the platform.
“That user experience research has provided a lot of data that we are going to use in the next year to improve the user experience so that user adoption increases for VLM and more content is placed on veteran pages,” he added. “It was also very important for us to see how the families of these veterans are going to respond to their information and their legacy being publicly displayed on a platform.”
“I love it,” Monroe’s daughter Melissa Graham told GovCIO Media & Research. “I think it’s going to be a good history archive later on.”
“I love being able to go back and look at all the pictures [my grandma] posted,” Graham’s daughter Jessica told GovCIO Media & Research. “As [my daughter] gets older, I can show her, ‘This is your great papa.’”
First launched in 2019 as a collaboration among NCA, VA’s IT office and industry development consultants, the VLM program recently earned the Gold Quill of Excellence award from the International Association of Business Communicators.
A future goal for the program is to have a page for every veteran no matter where they’re laid to rest, an effort that will include developing new databases and integrations to the VLM platform, LaPaglia said.