The stories of fallen US soldiers will live on in digital form thanks to an interdisciplinary collaboration between Texas A&M faculty from the colleges of liberal arts, engineering, and geosciences.


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The project, funded by the National Cemetery Administration (NCA), is led by Lorien Foote, Patricia and Bookman Peters Professor of History in the College of Liberal Arts, and Stacey Lyle, professor of practice in the colleges of engineering and geosciences. “The NCA has given grants like this to universities in different parts of the country, and A&M was a perfect fit,” Foote said, “not only because we have such a strong presence in engineering and history but also because of our tradition of selfless service and the number of veterans we have as students and alumni.” For the first step of the project, engineering graduate students will build and operate drones to map three Department of Veterans Affairs cemeteries: Houston National Cemetery and San Antonio National Cemetery in Texas and Alexandria National Cemetery in Virginia. That data will then be fed to a website where you can take a virtual tour of each cemetery. “After that the historic part kicks in,” Foote said. “Corps of Cadets history majors are going to research and write biographies on the veterans. When you visit the site, you will be able to read the story of the soldier’s experience.

“We don’t want it to just be a list of facts; we want to bring this person to life to talk about their sacrifice.”

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The project also will receive help from high school students in the Klein Independent School District near Houston, who will help test the website module while learning professional development. “We’re teaching students how to take data about a human being and turn it into a meaningful story of their life,” Foote said. "The success of the project requires an interdisciplinary approach, combining the discipline of the historian with the technology available to engineers and geoscientists," Lyle said.

“By transcending disciplinary boundaries between history, geoscience, and engineering,” Lyle previously remarked, “we will preserve and make accessible the stories of American veterans’ great contributions to our freedoms, for all people to experience.”

Foote said she believes the website will add to a larger conversation. “By having public access to the stories of these veterans, it helps us to understand the broader issues in our history and the changes our country has gone through,” she said. “War always brings about a lot of unintended consequences, so there are pivotal moments to help us understand drastic shifts that happen in the course of history.”


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