Wed, Apr

Veterans Bodies Left To Rot In LA County Morgue … Not So Uncommon In the US


NO ONE WHO CARES-Californians were horrified to find out that as many as 60 dead veterans have been decomposing at the Los Angeles County Morgue for more than a year. CBS TV reported on Friday that the bodies of 28 veterans would finally be laid to rest in Riverside National Cemetery. Channel 2 field reporter Stacey Butler reported that both the Veterans Administration and the LA County morgue were blaming each other for the mistake. This is not a rare incident in America but it is a subject that no one cares to report on. 

How these veterans were never identified will remain a mystery. Many had no family members. Many were homeless and families have lost touch with them. How many of them became dysfunctional and were alienated by families? How many suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Disorder (TBI) or any mental illness simply moved to another state without telling family members where they were going? 

Missing In America Project (MIAP), a non-profit organization founded in 2006, states its purpose is to “locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations. To provide honor and respect to those who have served this country by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes.” 

In six short years, MIAP has visited 1,587 funeral homes, found 8,225 cremains of which 2,170 veteran’s cremains were identified and interred 1,955 veteran remains. 

MIAP National Vice President, Linda Smith, said that every county, in every state, has a coroner. In morgues across the nation, there are perhaps 10,000 veterans whose bodies have not been identified by relatives. 

“In New York where cremation is prohibited until notification of next of kin has been made, MIAP was been able to give a proper burial to more than 65 veterans whose bodies were left in cold storage for years,” said Smith. 

In every state there are different laws regarding cremation and burial of veterans who have not been identified. There are approximately 23,000 funeral homes across the nation and nearly all of them are storing the unclaimed remains of perhaps 1.2 million people. So often, there is no law requiring funeral homes to report these unclaimed remains to the Veterans administration. 

As a volunteer with the Patriot Guard Riders, motorcyclists who provide escorts and other services at military funerals, MIAP founder, Fred Salanti, discovered an injustice that became his single focus. 

“Out West, most VA cemeteries had a lot of unclaimed, homeless, indigent veterans and they were having a service once a month,” he said. “They were burying 30 veterans at a time, with one chaplain and one funeral home director there, and no one who cared for them showing up to send them on their way.” 

Salanti travelled through nine states for the Patriot Guard and the story was the same in all nine states. 

In order to bury a forgotten veteran or his/her remains, MIAP must purchase burial permits and sometimes urns, send registered letters to the last known next of kin or pay for notifications in local newspapers, and provide transportation to the veterans final resting place. 

Regardless of the life stories of these veterans, they fought nobly for the freedoms that Americans continue to enjoy. Their courage should not be forgotten and they undeniably deserve to be buried with honor and respect. 

Find out how you can help bury a veteran at http://www.miap.us/.


(Katharine Russ is an investigative reporter. She is a regular contributor to CityWatch. Katharine Russ can be reached at [email protected]) Photo credit: The Oregonian.






Vol 12 Issue 43

Pub: May 27, 2014







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