[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.