Loudoun County rededicated its World War I memorial with a new plaque containing an integrated list of all its residents who died serving in the war.
The memorial has stood prominently on the county courthouse grounds since 1922. For nearly a century, the names of three Black servicemembers -- Ernest Gilbert, Valentine Johnson and Samuel Thornton -- were separated from the rest by two lines at the bottom.
On the new bronze tablet their names have been placed among the others in alphabetical order.
“It took us a hundred years, but it’s done,” said Marc Johnson, great nephew of Pvt. Valentine Johnson.
“Hopefully, this will be a start of reconciliation, atonement and not just a simple statue, which is important, but in grander issues with regards to racism and equality,” he said.
Alice Thornton-Jones has long known the memorial bears her great uncle’s name.
“It’s wonderful; it’s awesome that they corrected a mistake,” she said. “I’m sure back then in Loudoun County that’s just what they did.”
The new tablet was purchased through the Loudoun County War Memorial Trust Fund with money raised by community and veterans groups.
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“Today at this hour, this band of brothers unique to the war to end all wars will forever be reunited in the memory of their service,” said Judge Thomas Horne of the Loudoun County War Memorial Trust Fund.
A new Virginia law that took effect in July of last year allowed Loudoun County to legally make the change. Before that law, local governments did not have the authority to remove, relocate or contextualize war memorials.