Augusta’s tribute to the most highly decorated military veterans might be missing names of three war heroes, though the group that coordinates the memorial has more research to do before expanding the list.
On Riverwalk Augusta, bronze plaques honor 30 recipients of the nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor; the Army’s second-highest military decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross; and the second-highest honor for the Navy and Marine Corps, the Navy Cross.
The tribute, Heroes Overlook, honors veterans connected to Augusta and adjacent counties.
At least three more veterans born in Augusta, or who entered service in Augusta, have received the second highest honors, according to Doug Sterner, a curator of military medal recipients.
Sterner wrote Restoring Valor, a book on the military awards system and individuals who fraudulently claim the honors. He has spent two decades assembling a database of more than 200,000 veterans with military awards higher than the Bronze Star for the Military Times’ Hall of Valor.
The Augusta-Richmond County Historical Society, which created Heroes Overlook in the early 1990s, said it’s possible that names are missing, but they need to verify that the World War I veteran and two World War II veterans Sterner has in his database have connections to Augusta.
“We would be very interested in knowing it and adding them,” said Tom Sutherland, who helps coordinate the memorial.
Several local history curators tediously searched for local veterans with honors to begin the project, said Jack Widener, who helped spearhead Heroes Overlook. The group solicited honorees through newspaper ads, letters to historical society members and civic clubs. Engraved brick pavers were sold to raise funds for the project.
Sterner’s additions, if they fit criteria for the memorial, would be a welcomed find, Widener said.
“That’s good news for us,” he said.
A few years ago, a second tier was built on the memorial to add plaques for three veterans the committee discovered. Extra space was left on the new tier in case more recipients needed to be added in the future.
Sterner said it’s common for military honors to go undocumented, making memorials tricky for organizers. Many family and friends do not know their loved ones received the awards. Even some veterans do not know they have gotten the awards.
“Real heroes don’t talk about it. They don’t make a big deal about it,” he said.
Sterner has testified before Congress, urging the Department of Defense to create a complete database of military medals. Though a database exists, he said it is “vastly incomplete.”
Local memorials play an important part in honoring service members, but more importantly, they preserve history for younger generations in the armed forces, Sterner said.
“They are about the young boy or girl that walks by the memorial, reads the names, becomes aware of the sacrifice and, some day, might be called to serve their country,” he said.