Ashes of unclaimed veterans get final resting place

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They served our country in uniform, then were cremated, but no one claimed their ashes -- in some case, left on a shelf to collect dust.  Now, they will receive an honorable resting place.

More than 20 urns with the remains of American heroes will go to Cape Canaveral’s National Cemetery this weekend for a long overdue rite of passage.  The cremains will go into a columbarium, the dignified and orderly setting that feels right for a veteran who’s passed away.

The process of bringing them to the cemetery involved unraveling some mysteries.

“A lot of detective work, a lot of research, we have to look at every cremains,” said Donn Weaver.

Weaver served our country in Korea’s demilitarized zone, DMZ. Now, in his retirement, Weaver is involved in a nationwide project called Missing in America.  He covers a swath of Florida, coordinating with funeral homes that have unclaimed urns of forgotten veterans. He tries to figure out their identities and if they have any surviving family members. 

Weaver makes arrangements to give them proper military burials, and if they were the spouse of a service-member, they are also entitled to that.

“It gives them the ceremony that was missing -- the folded flag, the honor, the proper urn and witness from those of us who are alive and understand what those veterans have done,” Weaver explained.

This coming Saturday at 10 a.m., 19 deceased veterans and 6 spouses will be interred at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery. The public is encouraged to attend.

There was a ceremony back in November, and one back in June. Weaver said people are often curious why the veterans' remains have not been claimed. He said some of the back stories are kept confidential out of respect, but some explanations come to light after the ceremony.

One case that stands out involved ashes uncovered recently at a construction site, where workers demolished a home. The cremains had been left behind, and as the research team of 7 reviewed the facts, they discovered the identity of the veteran.

So far the Missing in America Project has uncovered more than 4,000 deceased vets who never got their proper funeral.