Veteran tributes labor of love for base volunteer
By Jonathan Hicks , 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 04, 2009
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Military veterans have served this country with courage and dedication. Their sacrifices have been vital to our nation's freedom and way of life. Erich Anderson has created a Web site to make sure their service will always be remembered.
The Veteran Tributes Web site is nonprofit, noncommercial, nonpolitical and personally financed.
Mr. Anderson said he got idea for the site 15 years ago while serving in the National Guard. Then after exploring the archive records in Keesler's history office, he discovered the wealth of information available and began his first tribute. The Web site went online April 1, 2008.
Base historian Tasha Hairston has worked to bring Keesler's rich history to life by digitalizing the historic pictures, articles and documents stored in the base archives. She said Mr. Anderson, an office volunteer, has been a valuable asset.
"Erich has been such a great help to this office -- his volunteer service has been mutually beneficial," she said. "He gains access to all the research material he needs for his tributes, and I gain the helping hands to convert more paper documents and photographs into electronic files."
Mr. Anderson's tributes are researched carefully using the veteran's actual military records and unit records, as well as other biographies and books. Besides the history office, another resource is the National Archives. It takes approximately 30 days to mail official military records after a request is made through the Freedom of Information Act.
Many who have served in the military reside in south Mississippi, and Mr. Anderson has done several tributes featuring Keesler veterans. They include Brig. Gen. Gregory Touhill, former 81st Training Wing commander, and Capt. Howard Cody, the namesake for one of Keesler's technical training buildings. Recently, he did a tribute to the 81st TRW's vice commander, Col. Christopher Valle.
Although the Department of Veterans Affairs defines a veteran as a discharged active-duty military member who is now either separated or retired, depending on length of service and type of discharge, Mr. Anderson has a more liberal interpretation.
"To me, a veteran is someone who has served this country through military service and it doesn't matter which branch, how long they served or if they're still on active duty or not," Mr. Anderson explained.
He does about 500 tributes a year and hopes to do more than 25,000 in his lifetime. One of his proudest moments came when he did a tribute for his father, Ronald Trosclair.
For more information, visit http://www.veterantributes.org or call 861-8985.