Finding Peace for Unclaimed Veterans' Remains

Finding Peace for Unclaimed Veterans' Remains »Play Video
EASTERN WASHINGTON -- KEPR is following up on a story we first brought you a couple of weeks ago; unclaimed remains being stored in government offices. Many of those remains belong to veterans. And now there's a push to find those lost veterans and give them a proper burial with military honors It's happening nationwide and right here in our area.

When you think of veterans who have passed, you think of flags, honor and salutes but for many who've gone unclaimed after they die there is a different reality.

"A lot of them are found in a shelf, in a room, in a filing cabinet somewhere....and that's not respectful to anybody," says Neal Miller, who volunteers his time to help the "Missing In America Project."

It's a different kind of M.I.A. -- Missing In America -- and their mission is to find these lost veteran remains and bury them with honors in a military cemetery.

So far the Missing In America Project has helped find a final resting place for more than a thousand veterans nation-wide dozens here in eastern Washington.

Eleven were found in Walla Walla among more than 300 boxes of remains. Another 13 were found recently in Prosser, Yakima and Moses Lake. Volunteers like Miller wrapped the remains in American flags and rode in a motorcycle motorcade to the State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake.

"It's humbling, it really is. I feel like I'm giving them their last ride," he says.

In the past six months the Cemetery at Medical Lake has given 56 of these unclaimed vets their final resting place some had served as long ago as World War I.

"It was sad, but it was also a good feeling because we were able to finally put them where they should be," says Miller.

They expect there's many more here in the state, so the Medical Lake Cemetery and the Missing In America Project are digging through coroner's records and military databases to find them all. Miller says he's on call to give them their final ride.

"They're heroes in my book. It's about giving them final honors and putting them to rest with their brothers and sisters who served in the military."

The Veterans Cemetery at Medical Lake will have a memorial ceremony next Monday, the day after the September 11th anniversary, for all the veterans' remains that have been put to rest their since the Missing In America Project started.