Service & Sacrifice: Dutch connection to an East TN memorial
A Dutch researcher has helped unearth a wealth of war records and pictures tied to East Tennessee veterans killed overseas.
"They're not forgotten," said Astrid Van Erp, as she sat beside a memorial in downtown Knoxville which holds the names of more than 6,000 military men and women from East Tennessee killed on duty since World War I.
After running across the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial webpage during another internet research project, Ms. Van Erp emailed the nonprofit and asked if she could help fill in some of the details about veterans with little or nothing known about their service, deaths, or where they were buried.
"I wanted to do more because I had time," recalling why she sent that inquiry almost 18 months ago. A veteran herself of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, Ms. Van Erp says growing up in Europe, reminders of the Second World War are everywhere. She says knowing how troops fought and died helps honor their legacy.
"Now the bios are filling out we have over 6,000. In fact, now there are only about 100 names or so that we don't have biographical information on and we are working on those," said John Romeiser, who serves on the board of the all-volunteer memorial association charged as the caretaker of the East Tennessee memorial.
"Astrid was just a rare gift to our organization," said Mr. Romeiser. The board even voted recently to fund a "thank-you trip" for Ms. Van Erp to East Tennessee. During her stay, she spent time traveling the south to document even more headstones of East Tennessee veterans ensuring the names etched in stone on the memorial in downtown Knoxville are underlined by at least a few important details about their lives.