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UCF Student Identifies More than 1,000 Central Florida Veterans for Hospital Memorial

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By Karen Guin

A University of Central Florida social work student has compiled the names of more than 1,000 Central Florida veterans who died serving their country for a memorial wall to be built at the planned veterans' hospital in Orlando.

Lauren Barr, who is pursing a Master of Social Work degree at UCF, spent months scouring U.S. military records, beginning with World War I, for the names of men and women from the region who died while in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. She started the project under the guidance of Paul Maiden, associate professor of social work, who had been contacted with a request for assistance by Central Florida Veterans Inc.

Barr identified the names of 1,013 veterans from six Central Florida counties -- Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia -- who died during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, the Persian Gulf War and the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

With help from librarian Hal Mendelsohn at UCF and analyst Donald Post at the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs, Barr located most of the records online or in special archives published by the Florida Department of Military Affairs. She learned, however, that some records are missing information. For example, collective death records for World War II, which had the largest number of casualties, do not include the date of death. This information is recorded on a veteran's individual record, which may not be easily accessible. Other records are unclear as to the cause or location of a veteran's death.

"The biggest surprise was to learn just how difficult it is to get accurate information," Barr said. "It's really opened up my eyes about the lack of awareness (of veterans' deaths) and the sheer numbers involved."

Barr's list of names and those gathered by the Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization, will be used to create a memorial wall at a planned veterans' hospital to be built at Lake Nona, near UCF's new College of Medicine. The foundation's chairman, Neil Euliano, said its members have been meeting regularly with architects to fine-tune the details of the wall, which will consist of a large semicircle made of black granite.

"The wall will be approximately 12 feet high with two-inch engraved letters identifying each veteran," Euliano explained, adding that it will be designed so that new names can be added over time. "In the center will be an eternal flame flanked by the U.S. flag, the Florida flag and the MIA (missing-in-action) flag."

The wall will part of the construction of the hospital, but it will be paid for with donations to the foundation.

Euliano said positioning the wall at the hospital's entrance will provide the facility with a perfect venue for welcoming dignitaries and holding press conferences. It will also serve as a reminder to the thousands of visitors, employees and patients who visit the hospital each month of the ultimate sacrifice made by "fallen Central Florida heroes."

Note: Readers who know the name of a veteran who should be included on the wall should contact Neil Euliano at dreuliano@earthlink.net.

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