Thursday, January 5, 2017

Veterans Affairs Database of Military Graves

This is part of my #1YearOfViz series! Check out the archive here:

I hope this week's viz doesn't come across as too morbid, You'll also find none of my typical gifs in this post as I wanted to keep it as respectful as possible. I was looking through the other day for a Kentucky-centric piece of data to viz when I found the Kentucky record from the VA of military burial sites and it seemed to be out of a larger dataset. Sure enough, I found the entire dataset which includes full names, birth dates, death dates, wars fought in, branch and occasionally rank of the individuals!

This is really neat for me as I've had several family members serve including both grandfathers who fought in World War II. As a matter of fact I recently got to go to LA to hang out with one of my best friends and we got to tour my Grandfather Davis' old battleship the USS Iowa! Here's a pic:
Me in front of my Grandpa's old ship the USS Iowa - Photo courtesy of Casey Miller

I having birthdays and death dates I was hoping I could do some more in-depth calculations on ages at time of death but the problem is that you can't specifically know based on the data that an individual died IN that particular conflict. You can make some pretty strong inferences to see how wars in particular pull down the median ages of people who pass away at different points. Let's go ahead and look at that dashboard now. You can click on a branch of military (the % of ALL records are on the right) and the ages/dates will reformat on the left (Median ages of people who passed away certain years). You can also just enter in a particular branch or rank on the left hand side if you'd like to filter the whole dashboard that way as well.

As you can see periods of war, particularly the first and second World Wars caused great dips in the median ages of veterans that passed away on those years. These pronunciations become much more distinct if you limit the ages of those who pass away to 35 and younger. The data as it's shown above represents ages 16-62 (the mandatory retirement age for military personnel barring special circumstances). In this next dash however you can see some gaps in the VA's data. Particularly between the years of 2001-2005... there's only a very small spattering of people represented in those years compared to the rest. Again you can reformat either side of the data by clicking or selecting parts from the opposite side. I'd suggest using a box select on the left side and selecting an individual war on the right. You can expand the "War" column on the right to allow for people who served in multiple wars to be selected. Generally speaking they are in chronological order but occasionally not. Some people, for instance, had WWI listed AFTER WWII... but let me assure you I did a TON of data cleanup on this... and I had to stop somewhere so ordering all the dimensions was my stopping point!

Finally this last one is a map of all the known military burial sites listed by the VA. I imagined there would be more than 183 but several have VERY large sections dedicated to soldiers. If you know that you have a family member or friend that is buried in one of these locations you can do searches. If you limit it down to a single person per location it will actually give you the full details of the location of the grave in the tooltip if you hover over the location with your mouse or finger. I hope that can be useful for some of you out there to find your loved ones.

Lastly let me say thank you to all those who have served... who lived and died for the freedom for people like me to be able to find public data and publish it.

As always hit me up in the comments below or on twitter @wjking0 if you have any questions or concerns.

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