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.
A. Cory Maloy
A. Cory Maloy (R) was elected to the Utah House of Representatives for District 6 on Nov. 8, 2016