The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) welcomed two cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point, this summer who will assist cemetery directors in service and outreach programs that connect Veteran legacy in the cemeteries with the community.
Cadets Mimi Mejia and Riley Eck worked closely with Dr. Bryce Carpenter, NCA’s educational outreach programs officer, during their visit to Washington, D.C., prior to their assignments to Fort Snelling and Santa Fe National Cemeteries.
“This academic internship experience is one of many opportunities for cadets to learn in the professional environment of a federal agency,” Carpenter said. “The cadets began their internship in Washington, D.C., where they visited Alexandria and Quantico National Cemeteries and met with NCA senior staff and program officers. They also visited with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, where they learned how to record oral histories from Veterans and their families.”
Mejia, who is interning at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, said she didn’t previously understand how VA national cemeteries contributed to Veteran memorialization and learning, but recognized their importance after visiting Alexandria and Quantico National Cemeteries.
“We can reach people and convey the Veteran experience by using national cemeteries as places of learning,” said Mejia, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota. “I grew up near Fort Snelling National Cemetery so it means a lot to go home and give back to the community. This internship has great importance to me. My great-grandfather was a Veteran and is buried at the cemetery.”
“Teaching the public about the Veteran’s experience is a good thing,” she said. “The cemetery is a final resting place for our Veterans and their families, but it can also be a place of learning for future generations.”
Carpenter, who also oversees NCA’s Veterans Legacy Program, said he hopes to continue this partnership with West Point and hopes to expand internship opportunities with other service academies. He also believes teaching the importance of memorializing Veterans within the service is a positive step in future collaboration.
“Although these cadets receive training in military science, history and tactics, the internship at NCA offers a way to gain hands-on experience to supplement research and learning outside of the classroom and the opportunity to explore specific disciplines in greater depth. Memories matter for every Veteran and their family,” Carpenter said.
The Veterans Legacy Program shares the stories of Veterans through the legacy enshrined in our national cemeteries. Through educational outreach programs and development of digital resources, the program enhances memorialization and increases awareness of the service and sacrifice of our nation’s Veterans.
Shawn Graham is a public affairs specialist for the National Cemetery Administration.