SANTA FE (KRQE) - A new program dubbed Forgotten Heroes will make sure theunclaimed ashes of military veterans get proper funerals with fullhonors, the New Mexico Department of Veteran' Services announcedWednesday.
The program brings together the state agency, the federalDepartment of Veterans Affairs and New Mexico's 33 counties.Veterans' Services will act as the family and arranged the funeralat the Santa Fe National Cemetery after the VA confirms the veteranstatus of the deceased.
Counties are involved because they, under state law, areresponsible for indigent and unclaimed burials.
“It’s extremely disheartening to hear that there arethousands of unclaimed cremated remains of veteransnationwide,” NMDVS Secretary John M. Garcia said in astatement released by is office. “All fallen veterans deserveto be treated with respect because they sacrificed to serve andprotect our country.
The agency credited Bernalillo County Manager Thaddeus Lucerowith raising the issue after someone alerted him about unclaimedremains stored by the county.
News accounts at the time described the county as refusing torelease the remains World War II veteran John Lott until someonewould come up with $500 to cover the county's costs.
So the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter raised the money, andLott, a 25-year Air Force veteran, was buried at the Santa Fecemetery in November.
The county currently is storing the cremated remains of 14veterans, according to Veterans' Services. A single internmentceremony is planned although a date has yet to be set.
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