RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Hundreds gathered at the Virginia War Memorial on Thursday to honor Virginia’s veterans and to take in a new exhibit providing a window into the lives of Virginia’s fallen heroes.

It was 65th annual Veterans Day ceremony in Richmond and it paid tribute to the more than 700,000 veterans and their families in Commonwealth.

The event began with the traditional bagpipes as military men and women from all branches of service packed the War Memorial’s amphitheater.

Virginia Department of Veterans Services Commissioner John Maxwell told the crowd their sacrifices helped America grow.

He said, “No doubt the legacy of those who served is the very foundation of our nation’s strength and security.”

Also in attendance was Virginia’s First Lady Pamela Northam, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Virginia’s Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Kathleen Jabs. Jabs reminded the crowd it is the duty of all Americans to remember the sacrifices of our veterans.

After the ceremony, the War Memorial unveiled its new exhibit – “Who They Were: Lives Worth Knowing.” It goes beyond the 12,000 names of Virginian’s honored at the memorial and puts a face and story to 32 Virginians who died in action like U.S. Army Sergeant William Whitlock Junior of Richmond. 

“He died in a Foxhole. Four men were in the Foxhole and grenades were thrown in there,” said his niece Deborah Costello.

Whitlock was killed in World War II. Part of his story hangs on the wall of the exhibit including a bayonet he used when he fought in the Philippines. Whitlock’s relatives got to visit the exhibit before it opened to the public.

Claudia Costello Stanley told 8News she remembers going to his grave every Saturday as she was growing up to pay her respects to the young soldier.

“All these boys, most of them were boys, were real people,” she said reflecting on the new exhibit.

Both women are thankful for the tribute to their uncle.

“It’s really gratifying, the one thing I am really sorry is that my mother is not here to see it. It would have meant so much to her,” Deborah Costello said.

Photo: 8News Reporter Kerri O’Brien