A moving local story has come to my attention on this Veterans Day:
It started a few months ago with a phone call to Sturtevant Funeral Home in Portsmouth.
A group called the Missing in America Project wanted to know about the funeral home’s unclaimed cremated remains. It wanted a list of names – Social Security numbers if possible – so it could determine whether any of them ever served in the military.
So the funeral home did some research, then turned over its findings to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The word came back: Among the unclaimed cremated remains were 10 veterans, all of whom had been honorably discharged. That was all Missing in America needed to know.
“They shouldn’t be sitting there unclaimed,” said Charlie Warthling, a local volunteer with the group. “This is the right thing to do.”
On Thursday, the 10 will be buried with military honors at Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. Five of them served in the Army, two each in the Navy and Marine Corps, and one in the Air Force.
“For whatever reason, their families were never able to do this for them,” Warthling said. “So we’ll be their family.”
The Missing in America Project was founded by veterans in 2006. Since then it has identified and interred roughly 855 service members across the United States, some dating back to the Civil War.
This will be the first such burial in Virginia. Warthling says there likely will be many more. “We’re just getting started,” he said.
Bill Gardner, Sturtevant’s president, declined to give the veterans’ names. He said it didn’t feel right. He wasn’t sure whether any were killed in action but said some had been sitting unclaimed since the 1980s.
“We’re very glad to finally see them being honored,” he said.
And I think there’s no better way to honor those who serve or have served than to offer a prayer for all of them, a prayer coming our way via The Deacon’s Bench:
God of peace,
we pray for those who have served our nation
and have laid down their lives
to protect and defend our freedom.
We pray for those who have fought,
whose spirits and bodies are scarred by war,
whose nights are haunted by memories
too painful for the light of day.
We pray for those who serve us now,
especially for those in harm’s way.
Shield them from danger
and bring them home.
Turn the hearts and minds
of our leaders and our enemies
to the work of justice and a harvest of peace.
Spare the poor, Lord, spare the poor!
May the peace you left us,
the peace you gave us,
be the peace that sustains,
the peace that saves us.
Christ Jesus, hear us!
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer!
UPDATE: Do take the time to read Locutisprime’s related response in its entirety… a teaser follows:
We are now losing over 1500 WWII veterans a day. That toll will only escalate exponentially in the next five years. And ten years from now, they will all but be gone completely.
Honor them now….while we still can…..