A new program dubbed Forgotten Heroes will make sure the …
Updated: Wednesday, 19 May 2010, 12:54 PM MDT
Published : Wednesday, 19 May 2010, 12:54 PM MDT
SANTA FE (KRQE) - A new program dubbed Forgotten Heroes will make sure the unclaimed ashes of military veterans get proper funerals with full honors, the New Mexico Department of Veteran' Services announced Wednesday.
The program brings together the state agency, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs and New Mexico's 33 counties. Veterans' Services will act as the family and arranged the funeral at the Santa Fe National Cemetery after the VA confirms the veteran status of the deceased.
Counties are involved because they, under state law, are responsible for indigent and unclaimed burials.
“It’s extremely disheartening to hear that there are thousands of unclaimed cremated remains of veterans nationwide,” NMDVS Secretary John M. Garcia said in a statement released by is office. “All fallen veterans deserve to be treated with respect because they sacrificed to serve and protect our country.
The agency credited Bernalillo County Manager Thaddeus Lucero with raising the issue after someone alerted him about unclaimed remains stored by the county.
News accounts at the time described the county as refusing to release the remains World War II veteran John Lott until someone would come up with $500 to cover the county's costs.
So the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter raised the money, and Lott, a 25-year Air Force veteran, was buried at the Santa Fe cemetery in November.
The county currently is storing the cremated remains of 14 veterans, according to Veterans' Services. A single internment ceremony is planned although a date has yet to be set.