Finding and Honoring Abandoned Veteran Remains

Nov 11, 2011 | 0 comments

Thousands of unclaimed cremated remains of veterans have been languishing on dusty shelves at funeral homes for years, even decades. This Veterans Day, think about honoring the fallen, especially who have no one left to remember them.

In the Santa Fe National Cemetery

In the Santa Fe National Cemetery

Last week, the unclaimed cremated remains of ten U.S. veterans, most who died in the 1970s and 1980s, were buried with military honors in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

According to the Missing in America Project (MIAP), there are thousands more to be found, identified, and given a proper burial and final resting place. Since the project was launched nationwide in January, 2007, the organization has:

  • Visited 1,968 funeral homes.
  • Found cremated remains of 14,420 individuals in storage.
  • Identified 1,730 of the remains as veterans.
  • Interred 1,584 of those veterans with honors in a national cemetery.

How does it come to this? Linda Smith, the national operations coordinator for MIAP, offered several reasons:

  • The family has no money.
  • The veteran died alone.
  • The family thinks that the funeral home will handle it.
  • Some families are just estranged and want nothing to do with the remains.

“It’s good that the funeral homes store the remains, rather than just scattering them,” said Smith. “This allows us to locate veterans and memorialize them for their service to our country.”

MIAP works with funeral homes, mortuaries, coroners, the American Legion, state funeral commissions, and state and national veterans administration agencies to locate remains and any surviving family to get the permission to bury the veteran with full military honors. Those honors include a flag folding ceremony and presentation, 21-gun salute, and the playing of Taps.

The Missing in America Project is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit corporation.  Their ongoing efforts to locate, identify and inter with military honors the unclaimed cremains of American veterans take many man-hours of effort.

Think about their efforts, especially given the recent news about desecration of war dead returned from Afghanistan and Iraq.  You can read these stories in The Washington Post:

Dover Embalmer Objected to Cutting Marine’s Arm

Remains of War Dead Dumped in Landfill

Dover Air Force Base is Nation’s Latest Military Site to be Accused in Scandal

And here’s an interesting story on the many memorial objects left in the Iran/Afghanistan war dead section of Arlington National Cemetery.

We need to blanket every mortuary and cemetery in the United States and let them know there are people who desire to claim our veterans. We need to let them know it is our desire to see they are interred with the honor and respect they deserve. They served our great nation.  It is now our great nation’s turn to serve them.

The veterans languishing on shelves need us. They need America to step forward and ensure they are buried with honor. They need America to show their thanks for their service. Without them, we would not have the freedoms we enjoy today.

To our armed forces, both active and veteran, I salute your service.

A Good Goodbye