Remembering The Forgotten: The Missing in America Project

It is a sad thought to contemplate, but there are hundreds of military veterans who have died alone, whose bodies have gone unclaimed for decades after their deaths, either because their families never made arrangements, or because they didn’t have any living family members to make those arrangements.

It is truly sad to think that anyone among us would die and be so alone, without family or friends to mourn their loss, to recognize their lives lived among us, or to give them the rites and recognition of a dignified burial. But it happens quietly, out of sight and out of mind, for too many veterans around this country.

Photo: Adobe Stock/driftwood

There are many reasons why this happens, of course. But there is an organization that is dedicated to finding the unclaimed remains of our military veterans who have been forgotten by the world for whatever reason and giving them the dignity of a proper military burial, in recognition of the nation’s gratitude for their service. That organization is called the Missing in America Project (MIAP). It has partnered with Service Corporation International (SCI), which is North America’s largest provider of funeral, cemetery, and cremation services, to do this work.

One of these ceremonies is scheduled to take place at the veterans memorial section of Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in Seattle, Washington, on Monday, November 14, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. It will be a ceremony with full military honors, for 99 veterans who served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army Air Forces, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines, who served in the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and non-war periods. It is going to be the largest burial that the MIAP has done to date.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Sergey Novikov

Jay Waring, SCI’s Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, told a Cision PR Newswire interviewer, “It’s tragic that they were deprived of a military funeral. We are going to honor their courage and selflessness. We are honored to give these veterans the dignified burial they deserve for bravely serving our country during times of war and peace.”

The Vice President of MIAP, Clyde Taylor, is quoted in the same article saying, “Every veteran…signed a blank check to the United States of America up to and including their life. One thing they were promised was an honorable, dignified military burial. We are going to fulfill that obligation because it’s the right thing to do.”

Photo: Adobe Stock/ricardoreitmeyer

The Missing in America Project visits funeral homes around the country to identify these forgotten veterans and to find final resting places for them. In many cases, the cremated remains have been so long unclaimed that the funeral homes no longer have the complete information of birth and death dates, etc. MIAP volunteers then submit a request to the National Cemetery Scheduling and Eligibility Office for verification. Once an unclaimed veteran is determined eligible, MIAP then coordinates with a State of National Veterans Cemetery to provide final interment and military honors for these forgotten veterans. As you can imagine, this effort requires a lot of research and can take up to a year to prove eligibility.

Photo: Adobe Stock/yarbroughphoto

The fact that there are so many veterans whose remains languish unclaimed in funeral homes and morgues around the country is an unfathomable sadness. The thought that a human being could live a life and serve the country and die without anyone to claim their remains, to mourn their loss, or to recognize their service to the nation is tragic beyond our ability to comprehend.

That there is an organization like the Missing in America Project, that considers it a duty to find these forgotten veterans, is comforting. Human life and service to the nation in our military in wartime or in peace deserve to be recognized and honored. Because of the efforts of the Missing in America Project, the remains of 99 American veterans will be buried with military honors at Seattle’s Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery on Monday, November 14, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. All veterans and the public are welcome to attend this military honors ceremony to witness and support these forgotten brothers and sisters.

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