Unclaimed Military Veteran Remains

By | January 10, 2020

[January 10, 2020]  Two Saturdays ago, a call went out to local people in my community that a military veteran was to be buried soon, and there were no relatives to claim the body.  A short time later in a driving, cold rainstorm over 200 people turned out to be at the grave site of a fallen comrade.  Despite the chilling weather, the mud, and a day most of us would watch television; there was an outpouring of respect for a man no one knew but who had given part of his life to defending the nation.

A good friend of mine, Marco, was the first to get the call.  He was immediately on the phone, calling more people he knew that were “movers and shakers” (his term for good folks who can make things happen).  Even Marco was surprised at the number of people in attendance, especially with the weather.  The American Legion provided an honor guard, the U.S. Army sent soldiers, and the town sent people who love our military.  “That’s dedication.  That’s what I love about the United States of America!” Marco said.

In South Florida, as reported by the South Florida Sun Sentinel1, 25 American veterans were buried will full military honors.  Their cremated remains had gone unclaimed by relatives and others.  It was reported that after the playing of taps, the folding of flags and the singing of “God Bless America,” each veteran was interred in the local cemetery.

This has not always been the case.  Earlier this century, it was common that veterans’ remains to be buried in unmarked graves and pauper cemeteries.  These cemeteries are still in use and black veterans are often buried there.  Today, the U.S. Nation Cemetery Administration has the oversight and the funding to tend to unclaimed veteran remains.  There is more information on the U.S. Government’s role here (see link).

It is difficult to determine the exact number of unclaimed veteran remains, but the number is in the thousands annually.  Local citizens are the ones who are often called upon to render honors and provide the respect we all want and that veterans deserve.  Those citizens and veterans deserve a special place in my heart for what they have done.


  1. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-ne-unclaimed-veterans-burial-20190406-story.html
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

14 thoughts on “Unclaimed Military Veteran Remains

  1. Joe Omerrod

    Let’s treat our veterans right (alive or deceased)! Nuff said.

  2. Max Foster

    I showed this to a number of my co-workers and they said this is a bunch of bunk and that surely this is not happening. Of course, it is and it does say something about those locals who took their time on a rainy day (or any day) to attend the funeral of a fallen comrade. I would be there no matter what. Respect is what this is really about. When our military knows that we have their back, like any human, they will do a better job.

  3. Georgie B.

    Does anybody know how we can get more information from our local communities? I would like to do something about it.

    1. Lynn Pitts

      Best thing to do is to call local funeral homes and talk with some of the staff. They are almost always the first to know. I suggest getting a good rapport with them first and link up with a number of vet orgs.

    2. old warrior

      I agree with Lynn. She is spot on with her suggestion that you talk with the funeral directors. Most of them are willing to give you a heads up if such a situation occurs. But the VFW, Amer Legion, DAV, etc are organizations that can also help you.

    1. KenFBrown

      Thanks to you guys for doing a little search for additional articles on this unfortunate situation. I’m sure it’s similar to the general population and not a consequence of them being veterans.

  4. Eva Easterbrook

    Thanks for bringing this unfortunate state of affairs to our attention. I had no idea!

    1. Jane Fillmore

      Eva, thanks for stating what we all are thinking. How could this be? How could any our of dedicated veterans be so alone? This is not just unfortunate but says something about our society that is, perhaps, not so good. I’m feeling a little better about it when Gen. Satterfield wrote that local community leaders and citizens were notified and attended.

    2. Yusaf from Texas

      Most of us didn’t know. I’m going to get more involved and contact a few of our nearby veterans organizations.

  5. Doug Smith

    This is so sad. I’m, frankly, very surprised but glad the US and local citizens are standing up to help.


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