Everyday Heroes

Missing in America: Thousands of Vets' Remains Go Unclaimed

Non-profit works to get proper military burials for vets who don't have any family to do it

You spend your life serving your country through war and peace.

The very least you'd expect in death is some honor and respect paid for your service.

But thousands of veterans remains are considered "unclaimed" in our country, sitting in urns in funeral home closets or stored on a shelf in a coroner's office.

These are vets with no family or friends to claim their remains, no one to plan a proper funeral.

(MIAP-organized funerals include the pomp that every military vet deserves)

The Missing in America Project is out to change that.

Founded in 2007, the MIAP's mission is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans. They work with funeral homes, local coroners, state and federal officials to find unclaimed remains, verify military service, and arrange for full military burials.

(Vets receive full military burials, including gun salutes and special music)

How big is the problem?

No one knows for sure.

But there have to be thousands, maybe tens of thousands of unclaimed, unburied remains. Just search the phrase "unclaimed veteran remains" on the internet and you'll find example after example of the remains of veterans and their spouses being interred thanks to MIAP.

A piece in the Sun Sentinal newspaper reported the burial of 19 veterans and six military spouses on just one day in June at the South Florida National Cemetery.

"Nobody should be sitting on a funeral home shelf, let alone a veteran or spouse of a veteran or a child," organizer Kathy Church told the newspaper. "And there are many others left sitting."

(Volunteers who don't even know the veteran help with the interrment)

Vietnam veteran Paul Markonni has coordinated at least a dozen MIAP ceremonies in Florida, working to gather civilian volunteers and military personnel to attend and pay respects where family members can't or don't show up.

"It's become very personally satisfying for me to do this," he told the Sun Sentinal.

"Like our motto says, 'It's the right thing to do.'"

If you'd like to support the Missing in America Project in their quest to make sure every veteran gets a proper burial, you can:

(Images: Missing in America Project website)

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