April 29, 2014

Honor Due

I work with a Vietnam veteran that often shares stories about his war experience.  He has learned that I am familiar with the military, and that I am fairly well versed in history, and, perhaps most importantly, that I am a good listener.  As much as I enjoy his stories, I realize that his time in my office is often about him needing to say the words out loud.  Sometimes it is a date, sometimes it is just a random memory that spurs him to talk.  I have learned the names of those that he served with, I know how his first squad buddy, 'Tex', lost his life, and the pain my friend feels because of the circumstances.

His cohorts keep in touch, and, in their retirement years have found the time and tech savvy to do things like create a website with photos, stories, and contact information.  Often, my colleague will call me in to show me something new that was posted, or share with me the passing of someone from his unit.

This makes me all the more sad to think that some veterans have been left behind - not MIA, or buried on foreign soil, but their bodies returned home, prepared for burial, and then never claimed.
Volunteers with a group called the Missing In America Project are now scouring funeral homes to find the remains of thousands of such veterans.
"We physically go to every funeral home," said MIA chaplain Warren Wurzburger, a Navy veteran. "For us, it's finding them. And if they're veterans, we should take care of them. It's very sad to know these folks sat on a shelf."
Wurzburger said since the project launched in 2007, volunteers have found the ashes of about 2,000 veterans.
They include two brothers from Indiana whose remains had been neglected since the Civil War. They are now interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
The 12 interred in Killeen Monday were the first to be found in Texas. Wurzburger said they were from the Austin area, but had been moved to a storage facility in Missouri. They served from World War II to Vietnam. Some served during all three wars.
The remains of World War II Army Staff Sgt. John Clevlen was unclaimed for 32 years. It was 12 years for Army Corporal Donald Klein; he earned a Bronze Star during World War II combat.
I am sure that there are any number of circumstances that contribute to this situation, but to me it seems unthinkable, that a loved one's remains could sit, seemingly forgotten, for decades.

I haven't read too much into it, yet, but, part of me wonders how in the world responsible funeral homes could let this situation languish for so long.  No one takes notice of the fact that there are remains of Civil War soldiers sitting on a shelf somewhere?

My hat is off to the Missing in America Project for the work they are doing.

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