American veterans laid to rest decades after being honorably discharged

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Three dozen American veterans were laid to rest Tuesday at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, decades after they were honorably discharged. It is an all-too-familiar practice happening with unclaimed remains across the country.

The memorial service was complete with full military honors. Those who have served, and those who have not paid their respects to 36 honorably discharged American veterans. But it is a duty that those in attendance said should have been done a long time ago.

"For them to sit unclaimed in a funeral home, some of them over 55 years, is just ridiculous,” said Clyde Taylor, with the Missing In America Project, adding, it’s a reality. "They deserve a dignified honor of a military burial. They were granted this by the U.S. government when they signed on the dotted line. The ball was dropped; we are here to see it's complete."

Freedom Riders escorted the gold urns from Messinger Mortuaries. This was all made possible through the Missing in America Project, an organization that claims abandoned remains as family when no one else does.

"It's going to be a massive task,” said Missing in America Project Founder Fred Salanti. “One funeral home gave us 4,000 names, two other funeral homes gave us 2,500 names, you multiply that by 26,000 funeral homes in the nation. We haven't even started."

Together, they will continue to ensure no veteran is forgotten.

"Just gives you goose bumps, you get them now,” said ‘Bob-the-Builder’ Schmidt, also one of the Freedom Riders. “These men are here being honored, being buried, laid to rest like they need to be."