West Virginia National Cemeteries Project

In the aftermath of the American Civil War (1861-1865), that bloody conflict’s unprecedented number of casualties required a new vision for how American veterans would be honored and buried. Efforts by Congress and the U.S. military soon gave rise to a system of “national cemeteries.” There are now 155 such cemeteries spanning the country, staffed by the National Cemetery Administration (NCA), a division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In 1867, Grafton National Cemetery in Taylor County, West Virginia, was among the first wave of these new institutions (and created only four years after the birth of West Virginia). When Grafton began running out of space after the Vietnam War, the newer West Virginia National Cemetery was commissioned four miles away from Grafton in Pruntytown. It opened in 1987, and both cemeteries are administered by the same NCA staff. These are West Virginia’s only national cemeteries.

National Cemetery Administration logo

In 2021-2022, the West Virginia Humanities Council obtained funding through the VA’s Veterans Legacy Program to pilot a new initiative honoring the service of men and women interred in Grafton and Pruntytown: the West Virginia National Cemeteries Project. Approximately forty Grafton High School students from the classes of Rebecca Bartlett and Richard Zukowski, assisted by graduate-level researchers from West Virginia University’s Public History program, worked in small groups for five months to research and write biographies of individual veterans. The biographies available on this page are the result of their hard work.


Students looking at names on WV Veterans Memorial

At the Veterans Memorial in Charleston

Using newspapers, yearbooks, obituaries, census records, city directories, archival records, and sometimes even letters or interviews with family members, the students sought to vividly memorialize the lives and service of their veterans. In the eyes of the project, every veteran’s experience is considered equally valuable. There is no requirement for length of service; a veteran need not have seen combat or served during a conflict. The only prerequisite is interment at one of West Virginia’s two national cemeteries.


The Humanities Council is proud to salute America’s veterans through the West Virginia National Cemeteries Project, and was honored by the assistance and/or partnership of the Taylor County Historical and Genealogical Society, Grafton High School, West Virginia University, and West Virginia Archives and History. Special thanks to Patricia McClure, Melissa Bingmann, Olive Ricketts, and Jacob Klinger. We hope to nurture and expand the project for many years to come.


Please forward questions or comments to the Council program officer at programs@wvhumanities.org



WV National Cemeteries Project tutorials

Topical video tutorials for students of the West Virginia National Cemeteries Project

Access the playlist »

West Virginia Standing Together

With special funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Humanities Council partnered with West Virginia military veterans to produce a six-part web series titled West Virginia Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War.  Lost Valley Studios filmmakers Calvin Grimm and Tyler Miller, both veterans, produced six 30-minute episodes focusing on the stories of West Virginia veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the First Gulf War, and post-9/11.  Episodes feature narration, on-camera interviews with veterans, film from each conflict, and contextual commentary.

Watch the episodes »

Ageless Friends via Public Broadcasting

Stream this 2016 Council grant-funded documentary, which chronicles the story of a young Dutch man determined to uncover the story of the West Virginia World War II veteran whose grave he adopted in the Netherlands.

Watch the documentary »