More cremains need to be identified, receive proper burial


Did you know that there are thousands of unclaimed cremains of veterans that have languished for years in funeral homes across the country?

When I first learned a few years ago that there were containers on shelves in funeral homes that were never claimed — either because no one came back for them or because fellow veterans did not know — I thought maybe there were a few.

Then, I began doing research for a story on the subject and was shocked to learn that the numbers were so high.

Since January 2007, The Missing in America Project was launched nationwide. It included a unit in Brevard County to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremains of American veterans.

In September 2018, a Brevard team of veterans headed by Donn Weaver and Chip Hanson received their first training from a Missing in America Project coordinator. They soon started their research with a funeral home with multiple locations that had some 3,000 unclaimed cremains. The research would first help determine if there were cremains of veterans among them.

Both Weaver and Hanson wear various hats in advocating for and working on behalf of fellow veterans on the Space Coast.

The first cremains of veterans were identified, the search for family members was made and interment of the first few took place with military honors at the Cape Canaveral National Cemetery. There have been three interments of 25 veterans or spouses each time during the past two years at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery.

Dozens of Brevard County veterans attended.

“We never left anybody on the battlefield,” said Hanson, a Vietnam veteran who lives in Cocoa Beach. “We made sure they got home with their brothers and sisters.”

The Brevard group is getting close to identifying 25 other cremains of veterans or the spouses of veterans. They will then schedule an interment with military honors, likely in March.

“We have a full military ceremony,” Hanson said.

Weaver said the process of finding, identifying and finally interring the cremains of a veteran takes months of work.

“There are thousands and we don’t know how many in Brevard,” he said.

Weaver, an Army veteran whose son Lt. Todd Weaver was killed in action in September 2010 in Afghanistan, said he is committed to serving other veterans.

“Our motivation is to move forward to do positive things for our community,” he said.