According to the Missing in America Project, there are as many as 300,000 remains of veterans that are unidentified or unclaimed. These unknown veterans languish in mortuaries, never given a final resting place or the military honors they deserve. But the organization aims to change that, a little at a time. And today, 21 of those veterans will be buried, some almost 20 years after they died.
The veterans, all from Utah, will be interred at Utah Veterans Memorial Cemetery after a full military service. One local mortuary donated a hearse and driver, which will be escorted by the MIAP and other citizens, who carried American flags on their vehicles. Dennis Howland, director of the Utah Vietnam Veterans of America, will be attending as well, and he has spoken up in support of the MIAP mission, saying, “As a (soldier), the worst thing that can happen to you is not being killed, it’s not being captured. It’s being forgotten.”
The Missing in America Project has interred 2,441 veterans’ remains so far. The reasons that a veteran’s remains may go unclaimed are numerous — he has no family left, he was homeless, their was a rift in the family. The organization will attempt to identify the veterans at the funeral home, and then work with state and federal agencies to verify their names and military service record. They will then attempt to find family or friends, but if none are able to be found or are unwilling to accept the remains, MIAP will give the veteran a funeral. For the people who devote themselves to this mission, it’s the least they can do — to make sure that America’s forgotten heroes are not actually forgotten.