'The Right Thing To Do:' Unclaimed Remains of 19 Veterans Laid to Rest

Jeff Thelusme visits a friend's grave on Veterans Day at the South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. They served in Afghanistan together. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Jeff Thelusme visits a friend's grave on Veterans Day at the South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. They served in Afghanistan together. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Some veterans are missing in action while others are missing from inaction -- their cremated remains languishing unclaimed in urns, on shelves, in closets of funeral homes across the country.

The Missing in America Project interred the remains of 19 veterans and six military spouses at the South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth on Saturday.

One veteran's remains had gone unclaimed since 1973, said ceremony co-organizer Kathy Church.

"Nobody should be sitting on a funeral home shelf, let alone a veteran or spouse of a veteran or a child," she said after the service. "And there are many others left sitting."

The organization seeks out unclaimed remains and then works to gather documents to verify their military service so they and their spouses can be interred with full military honors. To date, 300 veterans have been found and given the military burials they deserve.

Vietnam veteran Paul Markonni is a South Florida team leader for the Missing in America Project and he's organized at least a dozen such ceremonies across the state.

"It's become very personally satisfying for me to do this," he said. "Like our motto says, 'It's the right thing to do.'"

More than 100 civilian volunteers and active military personnel showed up in place of the families who did not.

U.S. Army veteran Floyd Chin, 72, of West Palm Beach, fought in Vietnam, but this was the first time he attended a service like this.

"It's so nice that they honored these [veterans] even though they don't know who they are," he said.

Those interred included 15 Army veterans, two Marines, two Navy veterans and one Air Force corporal; they fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

"Some of these folks have been in these boxes and bins or crypts and closets of funeral homes for decades," Markonni said. "It's not right."

This article is written by Wayne K. Roustan from Sun Sentinel and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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