For at least the third time in two years, the remains of U.S. veterans have been discovered languishing on the shelf of a Montana mortuary.
Volunteers recently located and identified the remains of the nine veterans left unclaimed at the Dokken-Nelson Funeral Home in Bozeman.
The urns have been collecting dust for as long as 14 years.
At 11 a.m. on July 26, the Missing in America Project, American Legion, Montana Veterans Administration and other state and federal organizations will inter these American heroes with full military honors at the Yellowstone National Cemetery in Laurel.
On the morning of July 25, a motorcycle procession from Billings will ride to the Dokken-Nelson Funeral Home in Bozeman, where they will meet with riders from across Montana and surrounding states to escort the remains to Billings.
Then on the morning of July 26, the riders will again assemble and form a funeral procession to Laurel for an interment ceremony.
Similar ceremonies were held in January when the remains of two veterans were buried in Laurel. In July 2012, the remains of seven veterans were interred in the Montana State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Harrison near Helena. This is the third ceremony that the Missing in America Project in Montana has provided. The first was in 2009 when project members interred the remains of two veterans discovered in a Ronan funeral home.
Marty Malone, Montana State Coordinator for MIAP, said he has no idea how many more remains are unclaimed because some funeral homes around the state have denied them access.
All veterans, whether they served during peacetime or while at at war, put themselves in harm’s way to secure our freedoms, Malone said.
“Each one took an oath to support and defend our Constitution,” Malone said. “These men and women are heroes in my book, and I am proud to have served alongside many of them. It would be a gross injustice to let even one of them be buried in some unmarked mass grave. They deserve honor and respect, both in life and in death.”
The mission of the MIAP is to locate, identify and inter all the unclaimed remains of veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations. The impetus for the program began in November 2006. The Idaho State Veterans cemetery interred 21 remains of forgotten veterans with full military honors.
The Missing in America Project is seeking what could potentially be tens of thousands of unburied veterans who served in wars throughout the past century. Their stories, forgotten by society, have begun to emerge from the shadows as the American Legion partners with MIAP to ensure that these men and women are given what they are owed: a dignified and respectful burial with full military honors.
To date, MIAP leaders nationally have visited at least 1,610 funeral homes and have found at least 8,763 cremated remains, some 2,239 of which have been identified. At least 2,041 of them have been interred.