Reporter: Claire Doan
SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) – A final farewell for some Arizona veterans: Remains of service members had gone unclaimed for years, but the Missing in America Project finally laid them to rest Friday.
Fifteen service members received full military honors before being interred at the Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
We will be forever indebted to them … the brave the selfless, the heroic.
“They know when they go they may die. They’re willing to take that risk. And that’s why we honor them because they are willing to make the sacrifice for complete strangers,” said veteran Bennie Howell.
The service members fought for America in different conflicts at different times, including World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
“Thank God we have them or I wouldn’t be here talking to you. God bless each and every one of them,” said Al Gons, another veteran.
“They have a place to go now. They’re not forgotten and stuffed into a corner and forgotten. Nobody wants to be forgotten,” said veteran Douglas Thuma.
But many were forgotten they were – some homeless, others poor, many without family – so their remains sat on mortuary shelves for decades.
“You see these people come back from Iraq and Afghanistan and this is where their hell really starts. They’re fighting a personal war, which is a shame, because they go through a lot of stuff over there defending our country,” Howell said.
The solemn ceremony honored fallen veterans along with sacrifices of their family members and served as a tribute to those who are still here.
“It made me cry seeing the respect. People in cars pulled aside, stopped along the road, saluted or waved. And some of them even had flags and I think that type of patriotism needs to be returned to us,” said Helen Anderson Glass, an 89-year-old veteran.
But that kind of patriotism is exactly what united these people in their efforts to honor fellow veterans.
“They may be gone, but never forgotten. They’ll always be in our hearts,” said Howell.
To date, the Missing in America Project has identified and interred the remains of more than 50 veterans.