“To Serve” is an expansive digital exhibit that looks at Texans’ long history of military service, sharing the stories of local veterans who served in conflicts from the War of 1812 to the present. There are approximately 3,500 military veterans buried across Austin’s municipal historic cemeteries: Oakwood Cemetery and Annex, Evergreen Cemetery, Plummers Cemetery and Austin Memorial Park Cemetery.
Each service member’s story is unique; so many people of different backgrounds fought and served all over the world, from the California Cavalry in the U.S. Civil War to notable musicians who performed in military bands. Multiple generations of family members served, and therefore many fathers, sons and brothers are buried near one another. One cemetery has 17 different family members who each served in three major conflicts.
Many of these veterans were Austin’s first fallen in foreign wars, like Nathaneal Lee, the first Austinite killed in the Vietnam War, who is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Famed author James A. Michener, buried in Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, wrote historical fiction that drew from the places he had visited and his experiences abroad as a soldier. There is the tragic loss endured by two Tejano families, each with five sons whose lives were lost in World War II. All were laid to rest in Austin Memorial Park Cemetery. Austin’s World War II history includes WASPs — Women Air Force Service Pilots — who flew in service but not in combat. Black Americans served their country through many major conflicts as Buffalo Soldiers, Tuskegee Airmen, and Harlem Hellfighters.
The digital exhibit features videos, photographs, digital maps and other multimedia content that interprets the histories of the men and women who proudly served their country across two centuries. “To Serve” is hardly comprehensive, as much information remains to be uncovered. Austin Parks and Recreation Department will continue to engage with the community and with volunteers to research military records and identify locations of veterans' graves within these historic cemeteries.