By Whitney McGowan, FamilyLink.com, Inc.
Monday, May 25th is Memorial Day. Memorial Day has always been a special day in my family, a time to remember my military ancestors, and also a day to visit the headstones of my loved ones who have passed away. As many of my family members (aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc.) that can make it gather at the cemetery at the same time and pay tribute to these special people who have made a difference in our lives. We place flowers on the graves and also take a family picture to mark the occasion.
Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while serving in the military. It was originally enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War, and then extended to celebrate American casualties of any war or military action.
How do you honor your military ancestors on Memorial Day? If you have never paid tribute to your ancestors on this day, why no start this year? Here are a few ideas of how to observe Memorial Day:
- Visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of those who died while performing military service.
- Visit a memorial, such as the National World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the USS Arizona Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the National Civil War Memorial, etc.
- Fly the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon.
- Participate in a ceremony in honor of military ancestors.
- Serve or visit widows/widowers of military ancestors, as well as disabled veterans.
WorldVitalRecords.com also has a variety of military databases to help you find out more information about your ancestors who served in the military. Here are links to a few of these databases Click here to view all military databases):
In the early 1980s, in response to a demand from veterans, Richard D. Coffelt began
a project to create data files to identify units down to the company/battery/troop
level for U.S. Army deaths in the Vietnam War. During the 1990s, Richard J. Arnold
and David L. Argabright joined Mr. Coffelt in the research effort. In 2001, the
data files project expanded to include unit information for those members of the
Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy who died in the Vietnam War. In 2002, the Vietnam
Helicopter Pilots Association and The Virtual Wall contributed significant additional
amounts of information to the data files for members of all the Armed Forces. These
data files contain the records for this series. This database contains information
on U.S. military officers and soldiers who died as a result of either a hostile
occurrence, including while missing in action or while prisoner of war, or non-hostile
occurrence in the Southeast Asian combat area during the Vietnam War. In particular,
it provides unit information the series creators had been able to locate about the
following: more than 37,000 of the 38,200 casualties from the U.S. Army, more than
11,000 of the 14,836 from the U.S. Marine Corps, more than 1,700 of the 2,584 from
the U.S. Air Force, more than 2,200 of the 2,564 from the U.S. Navy, and all 7 from
the U.S. Coast Guard. Each record includes identifying information for the casualty,
such as name, service number, date of birth, date of death, and city and state of
home of record.
This database contains information about U.S. Army personnel and their dependents
who died or were injured worldwide, including missing in action and prisoners of
war. Approximately 85 percent of the records relate to the Vietnamese Conflict,
1961-1975. The file includes records for active duty enlisted personnel; general
officers on active duty, retired, or otherwise separated from the service; some
National Guard and Army Reservists; and some civilian employees and dependents if
overseas and the casualty required a notification to someone. The records include:
Country of Casualty, Category of Casualty, Master Casualty Number, Social Security
or Service Number, Name of Casualty, Category of Personnel, Military Grade, Military
Classification / Dependent, Current Casualty Status, Previous Casualty Status, Major
Attributing Cause, Complimentary Cause, Vehicle Type Involved, Vehicle Position,
Vehicle Ownership, Date of Casualty, Report Date, Province of Casualty, Grid Coordinates,
Republic of Vietnam Report Control Number, Component, Military Occupational Specialty,
Officer Branch, Source of Commission, Sex and Marital Status, Posthumous Promotion,
Race, Religion, Home of Record, Birth Date, Major Organization, Date Commenced Tour
or Retired or Separated, Previous Master Casualty Country, Previous Master Casualty
Group, Adjustment Code, and Card-ID / Battle Determination. This data file contains
duplicate records for some soldiers.
Known Military Dead During the American Revolutionary War, 1775 – 1783
This database contains the first complete list of the known military dead during the American Revolution.. Known Military Dead consists of an alphabetically arranged
listing of upwards of 10,000 names, with rank, date of death, and state of birth
or service or place where buried. Also includes a bibliography of published Revolutionary
This database contains information about U.S. Army officers and soldiers who were
casualties in the Korean War. According to the variable “casualty type,” 27,727
records are for Army personnel who died, including personnel who died while a prisoner
of war or missing in action. The remaining 82,248 records are for nonfatal Army
casualties. The information on each casualty includes: name, service prefix and
number, grade, (Army) branch, place of casualty, date of casualty, state and county
of residence, type of casualty, detail/previous casualty type, casualty group, place
of disposition, date of disposition, year of birth (for deceased casualties only),
military occupational specialty, organization troop program sequence number, element
sequence, unit number, race, component, and disposition of evacuations.
Data obtained from 3,050 Pension Claims and Bounty
Land Applications, including 1,000 Marriages of Maryland Soldiers and a List of
1,300 Proved Services of Soldiers and Patriots of other States.
The data in this index was taken from Record Group 36, the compiled service records
of soldiers and sailors who served in the First World War from Tennessee. The index
is not a “complete” list of all Tennesseans who served in World War I; individuals
from Tennessee who enlisted in other states are not included. Additional information
regarding the soldier’s rank, training, dates of service, discharge, etc. can be
obtained from the microfilmed records.
Search the newly expanded, geo-mapped database of nearly 60,000 Vietnam veterans.
Here you will find extensive unique statistics such as location, date and reason
of casualty, religion, tour dates and even reference numbers to the exact location
on the Vietnam Memorial. Also included are vital statistics such as birth, marriage,
death, hometown location, nearby cemeteries and much more.
USA World War II Army Enlistment
The information below outlines the content that can be found in the USA World War II Army Enlistment database.
State and county of residence
Place of enlistment
Date of enlistment
Term of enlistment
Nativity (place of birth)
Year of birth
Height and weight (before 1943)
Military occupational specialty (1945 and later)
Box and reel number of the microfilmed punch cards