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Ceremony Held To Honor Unclaimed Veterans

Courtesy of Bret Bowers, USAF Veteran, Mann-Grandstaff VAMC – Spokane, WA

A ceremony was held Wednesday at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake to honor what are known as unclaimed veterans.

Fifty veterans received a full military ceremony and internment at the State Veterans Cemetery set in the rolling hills of Medical Lake Tuesday. Those individuals are known as unclaimed veterans, those who have passed away whose remains were never claimed by family members and given an actual resting place. Often their cremated remains can be stored at various funeral homes for years.

The Veterans Administration has a special program to search out those individuals. 

“Through establishing relationships, basically cold calls, establishing relationships with funeral directors, cemeteries, coroners, medical examiners, we work to get lists of individuals who have passed but never were claimed. Then through those lists we run three data points, the name, social security number and the date of birth to the national archives to see if any come back as vets or spouses. If they are veterans, we request their discharge papers to make sure the vet qualifies,” said Rudy Lopez, director of the State Veterans Cemetery.

Lopez says honoring the unclaimed is a way to pay back to those who have served our country.

“It’s our promise to our vets that we're never going to leave you behind, regardless of life’s circumstances. We're going to make it our mission to go find you and give you a resting place you deserve,”  he said.      

Wednesday's event featured an honor guard from all branches of the military, as well as dozens of bikers with the Patriot Guard who worked as escorts. They transported about 40 of the remains in a ride from the Tri-Cities earlier this month.

The State Veterans Cemetery has been open since 2010, and has interred 5,200 veterans', their spouses and children.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.