A team of volunteers took extreme care to make sure that there no errors in the names of the fallen heroes engraved in the granite panels of the Memorial.
Early in this project we discovered that roughly 3% of the names on official Department of Defense casualty lists have errors in the ways the names are spelled, the official date of death and the age at the time of death. We took that as a challenge to make sure we took the steps necessary to get the highest quality, most reliable information possible.
Those steps included exhaustively reviewing mentions of the fallen hero on the internet, checking other Department of Defense information sites, checking the registry of the national and local cemeteries, checking photographs of the hero's headstone, reading newspaper and on-line obituaries, reviewing how close relatives spell the hero's name or their own if it is the same. When necessary we contacted the surviving family members, or hometown newspapers or city governments to make sure we had the name right.
Once we finished the step of exhaustively checking a specific portion of the list of names, they were handed off to another volunteer who formated the list to fit the granite panel dimensions. That list was then double checked for any errors introduced in that process.
After the list was verified it was sent to the granite fabricator where it was loaded into a special computer that generated a life-sized layout of the names. One requirement was that no name was split across lines. An image was taken of that and it was sent back to us for review. We verified the accuracy of the list and layout and sent it back with recommendations for any required changes.
Those changes were made, and verified before a latex version of the life-sized layout was produced by a special machine. This stencil was positioned on the granite panel and our representatives went to the shop to inspect the stencil. It was checked for proper positioning on the granite (all the lines were straight across, and the margins around the stencil were maintained).
After the positioning was checked, the lettering for the names was removed letter by letter with an Exacto knife. Finally, the names were checked against the original memorial source list a final time to make sure every one was spelled right, and that all name punctuation iwa present. At this point the panel iwa ready for sandblasting.
After the sandblasting was done, the letters received a coat of epoxy paint to heighten the contrast of the letters against the black granite, and then the stencil was carefully removed. The panel received a final polish and was stored for future delivery to the Memorial site.
By the time of the Memorial's dedication ceremony, roughly 17 granite panels were filled with 5,714 names of the fallen. Each 6 foot tall panel has 84 lines and holds an average of 350 names. Three blank panels were hung at the Memorial and additional names will be processed in the same fashion except that the sandblasting will be done with a portable device on site at the Memorial. A reserve fund is being accumulated to pay for the future engraving, and to pay for an expansion of the Memorial if circumstances warrant it.