What began as a volunteer service more than a dozen years ago, has turned into a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their Families research awards and military history.

In 2000, John Elskamp, an Air Force veteran and co-founder of Veterans’ Legacy Foundation, volunteered to track down the service records of a former Airman. After two and a half years of research by Elskamp, the veteran was awarded the Airman’s Medal and the Commendation Medal for Heroism.

Elskamp said he had to go through a former U.S. congressman to get the recognition that the veteran deserved. The congressman was impressed with Elskamp’s skills and asked him to assist other veterans who approached their representatives about getting overdue awards.

Research varies from those who served in World War I and II to Iraqi War veterans and every conflict in between, said Elskamp, who has searched the National Archives at College Park, Md., and the Carlisle Barracks’ history in Pennsylvania. A fire at the National Personnel Records Center in Missouri makes searching records more time-consuming.

VLF is headquartered in Harnett County, N.C., a neighboring Fort Bragg community.

“I do a lot of historical research. It’s very labor-intensive,” said Elskamp who depends on military discharge papers, witness affidavits and other military documentation to track information. All branches of service are searched.

Veterans’ Legacy Foundation is staffed by nearly 12 volunteers and has more than 175 open cases.

One of those volunteers is Robert Baker, a research associate and a fellow Air Force veteran.

Baker said that one of the most heart-wrenching searches involved finding the records needed to award Vietnam veteran, Wayne Roberts, two Bronze Star medals, one of which was with Valor. The first medal was awarded in September 2010, just weeks before Roberts died.

The latter was awarded postumously to his widow.

In 2011, a World War II veteran was awarded a Bronze Star based on research conducted by Veterans’ Legacy Foundation.

VLF operates primarily off donations from other veterans, he said.

“We make the veteran feel important because they are,” he explained.

For more information about Veterans’ Legacy Foundation, like them on Facebook, visit their website at vetslegacy.org or email them at info@vetslegacy.org.