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Old 02-22-2007, 04:10
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Rocky Rocky is offline
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Exclamation PGR -Unclaimed Vet Cremains

Patriot Guard Riders and Missing in America Project
hold first of many ceremonies.

Project salutes unclaimed remains
Patriot Guard, others seeking honor for vets

By Jim Schultz

IGO -- The Northern California Veterans Cemetery on Monday was decked out in red, white and blue, as well as black leather and polished chrome.

The Patriot Guard Riders, a national patriotic motorcycle group, and the state Department of Veterans Affairs, among others, held a ceremony to start a national campaign that's aimed at ensuring that the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans are properly laid to rest.

Bruce Compton of Redding, one of three Patriot captains in California, and Fred Salanti, a Grants Pass, Ore., resident and national coordinator for the group's Missing in America Project, said Monday's ceremony was the first in the nation. But it won't be the last, they pledged.

Salanti and Compton, both Vietnam War veterans, have been leading the effort to find the remains of unclaimed veterans, and they paid tribute to Jim Allen of the Allen & Dahl Funeral Chapel for helping to get the project rolling.

Dahl allowed Compton and Salanti access to his mortuary's logs and records, and they were able to identify the unclaimed cremains of five veterans there who now are set for possible burial at the Igo cemetery.

Salanti, his voice sometimes quivering with emotion, said these men, as well as other veterans who have yet to be identified, did their duty and should be laid to rest in a state or federal veterans cemetery instead of on mortuary shelves or in vaults.

"It's the right thing to do, to find these veterans and give them the honor and respect due them," he said.

Stephen Jorgensen, administrator of the Northern California Veterans Cemetery, couldn't agree more.

"It's the right thing to do and I'm very proud to be a part of it," he said.

Monday's ceremony included all the trappings of a military funeral, including a ceremonial urn, prayers, the presenting of colors, a rifle salute and the playing of taps.

Former State Sen. Maurice Johannessen of Redding, who was the keynote speaker, praised the Patriot Guard Riders for the project, but also criticized Congress for not providing sufficient funding for health care, benefits and other services to veterans and their families.

Tom Johnson, secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, also issued a news release Monday vowing that the agency will help the group in any way it can.

We will continue to cooperate with the Patriot Guard Riders and their Missing in America Project and inter the remains of veterans as we become aware of them," Johnson said. "Although we do not know the reasons why many veterans were not buried with the honors they were entitled to receive, we feel it's important to remedy this situation whenever it is possible."

It's been estimated that tens of thousands of abandoned remains, veterans and non-veterans alike, are piling up at funeral homes across the nation.

Salanti noted, for example, that nearly 3,500 abandoned urns containing the ashes of mental patients who died at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem are being stored there, some dating to the 1880s.

It's estimated, he said, that 1,000 of them may be veterans.

Patriot Guard Rider web site here...

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Patriot Guard Riders/Missing In America Project

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