Once-forgotten veterans will finally be buried with honors


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The Missing in America Project organized a ceremony in June featuring 44 pallbearers to honor 21 veterans and a veteran’s spouse at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery.

PHOTO Jill Blue

For 45 years, they languished on a shelf at a funeral home, but thanks to the Missing in America Project, the cremains of a World War I Army nurse will soon finally receive the proper burial the veteran richly deserved.

The hero from the War to End All Wars is one of 16 local veterans and six military spouses who will be laid to final rest at 10 a.m. Feb. 2 at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery.

This is the second organized ceremony to honor the cremains of unclaimed veterans. In June, a ceremony was held at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery.

They were officers, enlisted men and nurses. They served their country in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard during World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and other non-war specific periods. They were very different people during very different times, but they all shared one  common denominator — no one cared to claim their remains.

“They were unclaimed for a variety of reasons,” said Paul Markonni, team leader of the Missing in America Project, which organizes the burials.

Some had no family, others were homeless. In some cases, the family couldn’t afford to pay the cost of a burial. Some relatives felt they couldn’t deal with it.

The Missing in America Project has stepped in to locate and identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans and their spouses as a final thanks for their service.

Markonni, a Vietnam vet and retired federal employee, has helped lay to rest about 200 veterans since he began volunteering with the organization in 2014.

“All the services are very emotional,” he said.

Missing in America Project volunteers research lists of unclaimed cremains at funeral homes across the country. About 30 percent of the cremains investigated are of veterans and their spouses.

Although the nonprofit has interred more than 3,500 vets, thousands remain to be verified and buried, for a single funeral home can store hundreds of unclaimed cremains.

Missing in America Project welcomes donations to cover the $50 per veteran costs of burial permits, urns and transportation to the national cemetery.

An escort for Missing in America Project burial service will leave from American Legion Post 1 at 1281 N. U.S. Highway 1 in Titusville to the cemetery. Motorcycle organizations, riders and vehicles are invited to participate in the escort, as is the general public at the cemetery. The meeting time is 8:30 a.m. at the post for a safety briefing; the escort will depart for the cemetery at 9:10 a.m.

For more information, go to miap.us.