Agents organize funeral for "forgotten" Marine veteran

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A crowd of more than 100 gathered Monday at the Arizona National Cemetery, to pay respect to a veteran none of them had ever met.

Clifford Walker served honorably in Vietnam as a Marine, and died in 2011 at age 66 from lung cancer. He donated his organs, but asked for his cremated remains to be sent to the VA for proper burial at the cemetery.

Walker had no known next of kin.

The FBI and Arizona Attorney General's Office raided the Biological Resource Center in January, as part of an investigation into whether the bodies donated were used according to the donors' and families' wishes.

Agents came across Walker's remains in a storage room at the facility in January.  They say the company never sent them for burial, as Walker had wished.

Agents working the case took it upon themselves to organize a military burial for Walker, a man none of them knew.

"It's overwhelming," Agent Andy Rubalcava of the Attorney General's Office said of the turnout Monday afternoon.

"I'd never guess a criminal investigation would lead to something like this," he said.

"His remains were in a box. We didn't want to depart the Earth alone, forgotten in a box in a room," Attorney General Tom Horne added.

Law enforcement agencies sent delegations to the service. Many veterans showed up to pay respect as well, after hearing Walker's story.

"He desired to be buried but yet his remains sat in a dark store room for years. That saddened me," said Pastor Darryl Rivers, who spoke at the service and is also a veteran.

"It broke my heart to have someone forgotten the way he was," Ginger Kennedy said after the service.

The honor guard presented the folded American Flag to Agent Rubalcava, who said the AG's office will hold onto it, while they continue searching for a member of Walker's family to give it to.

The fraud investigation into the organ donation business has wrapped, according to sources.  Agents have not yet announced whether charges will follow.