Former Army officer Robert Dalessandro calls his work of preserving veteran remembrances, on Memorial Day and beyond, a sacred mission. The historian, author, and Gulf War veteran said he lives by the motto “time will not dim the glory of their deeds,” and dedicates every day to honoring killed and missing servicemen and women.
At a glance
- Robert Dalessandro heads up the ABMC, a government agency responsible for taking care of military cemeteries and monuments
- American military cemeteries and MIA monuments exist all over the world, not just on domestic soil
- About 76,000 servicemen and women disappeared while engaging the enemy over the course of American history
“I believe we have the most sacred mission of any government agency,” Dalessandro, 63, said in an interview this week with Fox News Digital. Dalessandro is the deputy secretary and leader of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), an agency that oversees memorials for the over 200,000 fallen and missing soldiers in our nation’s history.
The ABMC, headquartered in Arlington, Va., outside Washington, D.C., has dutifully prepared Memorial Day ceremonies at 26 American military cemeteries around the world, from France to the Philippines. They also manage a network of 32 global memorials dedicated to America’s fallen soldiers.
Dalessandro explained his “very unusual career track” that allowed him to mix his passion for history with military service. He said he grew up “all over as a Navy brat, but I consider Virginia home.”
“I never thought I’d do anything but go in the army,” he said. He served for 29 years in the Army (1980-2009) between operational and special historical assignments. Those assignments included a stint as director of the U.S. Army’s Center for Military History. He eventually rose to the rank of colonel in the army.
Dalessandro called maintaining the veteran cemeteries, on Memorial Day and year-round, a “tremendous responsibility”
As a boy, he said he loved attending old battlefields with memorials created for the dead. Some memorials stood monumental in scope, while others stood humbly and gracefully in simplicity.
“It is something near and dear to my heart,” Dalessandro said. “Taking care of our fallen — it’s an awesome responsibility.”
At ABMC, he said that “it is our job, every day of the year, to take care of those who gave the last full measure.” If those last words sound familiar, it’s because they are the last four words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Most of the 200,000 Americans who gave the last full measure — about 125,000 — lay under beautiful rows of pristine white marble crosses. Stars of David adorn many of the markers, as well. Popular American iconography like shots from Saving Private Ryan brought the images of military cemeteries to the mainstream.
But another 76,000 American men and women, mostly from World Wars I and II, remain missing in action. Memorials without graves adorn the various global cemeteries near where they fought and disappeared.
“Every day, we make sure that those cemeteries are perfectly maintained and also perfectly operated. They’re ready at any moment for visitation by anyone,” Dalessandro said. “And we do that to honor those who rest there. It is a tremendous responsibility.”