Linda and I attended a memorial service for several U.S. military personnel whose unclaimed remains sat on mortuary shelves for years. Recently, family members were reunited with four of the servicemen.
The service was a pleasant experience full of a spirit of patriotism -- interesting how that spirit feels much the same as the Spirit of God. (Watch the video below of the flag folding presentation.)
The service was put on by the Utah chapter of the Missing in America Project (MIAP).
With gray clouds and a light rain as a backdrop, a procession of family members, and veterans and police officers on bikes, escorted a funeral hearse holding the remains of 22 Utah servicemen from the U.S. Navy, Army, and Marines to the Utah Veterans Memorial Park for the memorial service.
"For many years, these servicemen remained unclaimed," said Roger Graves, MIAP Region 2 Coordinator for Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. "We are all family, and we claim them."
The memorial included full military honors with a three-gun salute, taps, a bell ringing the reading of each serviceman's name, and a flag folding presentation for each of the four surviving family members.
Difficult to believe and understand, all of the servicemen were veterans of wars going back to World War II and whose remains in urns went unclaimed by family members and sat in mortuaries for years.
The family of Richard Andrew Varela told Senator Daniel W. Thatcher (R-Tooele) and me how they knew their son was dead, but no one informed them. For years they searched for Richard's remains finally finding them in Utah about 18 months ago – they live in Colorado, and Richard died in 1986.
Senator Thatcher and I are looking into how this situation is possible and looking at how potential legislation may prevent occurrences in the future. It appears at this point; the remains are turned over to a mortuary where they stay with no requirement to find out where they belong.
We have seen over the past many weeks the ugly eye of division, hate, intolerance, pride, and violence. We, as U.S. citizens of Utah House District 6, know this division is not what defines us; we know Americans have been coming together for the great cause of freedom since before the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
We certainly witnessed this unifying gathering of patriotism during the days and weeks following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and again in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey – Americans, you and I and millions more, working to help, serve and love one another as only Americans can.
During this very day, the people of the Caribbean, the State of Florida and other regions of the United States are either coming out from the wreckage of Hurricane Irma or preparing to face her wrath. There is a swelling sense of patriotism to help, treat and rebuild the broken bodies, homes, and communities resulting from these disasters. Likewise, patriotism does not stop at the borders of our community as helping hands reach out to earthquake ravaged Mexico, and other disaster devastated parts of the world.
President Trump said it beautifully when he recently proclaimed September 11, 2017, as Patriot Day.
“Throughout history, everyday Americans and first responders have done the extraordinary through selfless acts of patriotism, compassion, and uncommon courage. Not just in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, but across our great Nation, Americans on September 11, 2001, bound themselves together for the common good, saying with one voice that we will be neither scared nor defeated. The enemy attempted to tear at the fabric of our society by destroying our buildings and murdering our innocent, but our strength has not and will not waiver. Americans today remain steadfast in our commitment to liberty, to human dignity, and to one another.
“We will always remember the sacrifices made in defense of our people, our country, and our freedom. The spirit of service and self-sacrifice that Americans so nobly demonstrated on September 11, 2001, is evident in the incredible response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The same spirit of American patriotism we movingly witnessed on September 11th has filled our hearts as we again see the unflinching courage, compassion, and generosity of Americans for their neighbors and countrymen.”
This Patriot Day, may we never forget the terrible hatred that befell this great nation on September 11, 2001; may we always remember the patriotism that arose to unify a nation of people. Honor this day with love, tolerance, generosity, patriotism, by neither offending or becoming offended, by helping people, by enjoying your family and friends, and by praying to Almighty God for His goodness and mercy upon all people.
God bless each of you, your families, our country and our community.
#9-11 #CoryMaloy #Patriotism #Harvey #Irma #HouseDistrict6 #PatriotDay
A. Cory Maloy
A. Cory Maloy (R) was elected to the Utah House of Representatives for District 6 on Nov. 8, 2016