WSVN — It may come as a sad surprise, but the ashes of thousands of men and women who served our country remain in funeral homes — unclaimed. There is one group whose mission is to honor them with “a final salute.” 7’s Carmel Cafiero has our special assignment report.

On a beautiful Saturday morning, the rumble of motorcycles could be heard in Palm Beach County. This solemn procession ends at the South Florida National Cemetery, with a patriotic mission.

These bikers are giving a final farewell to U.S. Veterans who died — but were never honored with a proper military funeral.

It’s part of the “Missing in America Project” — a nationwide effort to locate and inter the cremated remains of veterans who have gone unclaimed — sometimes for decades or longer.

Kathy Church, Missing in America Project: “Going back to the Civil War days, believe it or not. We’ve actually located two Civil War brothers, one died in 1908, one died in 1912 in another state, and they’re now buried in Arlington National Cemetery.”

“Missing in America” volunteers locate the remains at funeral homes, cemeteries and hospitals. The reasons why they go unclaimed, vary.

Kathy Church: “Unfortunately, some families become distant from each other. Sometimes family pay for the service and for some reason the funeral homes didn’t follow through.”

This past weekend, 23 veterans and spouses were given final resting places in South Florida. They were members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine.

Kathy Church: “We did this service, for Florida, we interred our first female World War I veteran, our first female World War II veteran, and we had 5 husband and wife couples … and two of them were in the same urn.”

The urns, many built by the South Florida Woodworking Guild, are handled with white gloves by volunteer pallbearers before a service, complete with color guard…

The reading of names, a “three-volley” salute, and playing of taps.

Dozens showed up to honor people they never met — like 91-year-old World War II veteran Philip Vale.

Philip Vale: “I think it’s wonderful that we’re able to celebrate their burial at this point. They were almost like the unknown soldiers, whose lying in Arlington of course. These people were technically unknown until we recognized them.”

From the “greatest generation” to the next generation.

Lyette Reback and her very large family came out to pay their respects, too.

Lyette Reback: “I think it’s really important to teach our children that their freedoms and opportunities come at a great cost and sacrifice.”

With a final salute, and each urn in it’s place. In a few weeks, names and dates will be added, along with four words — “You are not forgotten.”

Carmel Cafiero, 7News.


Missing in America Project
Kathy Church – Florida Coordinator

South Florida National Cemetery

South Florida Woodworking Guild


List of 23 people interred at service:

United States Army Veterans and Spouses
Private First Class Robert E. Albertson, 1922 – 1978, World War II

Patricia Y. Christiani, 1918 – 1978, spouse of Major George Robert Christiani, World War II

Major George Robert Christiani, 1913 – 1985, World War II

Staff Sergeant Anne M. Dion Urban, 1921 – 1989, World War II

Marie R. Grupposo, 1926 – 2009, spouse of Private First Class Gene L. Grupposo, World War II

Private First Class Gene L. Grupposo, 1922 – 2009, World War II

Bessie V. Hamilton, 1889 – 1962, spouse of Corporal William Scott Hamilton, World War I

Ruth C. Holstein, 1918 – 1984, spouse of Private First Class Harold Z. W. Holstein, World War II

Private First Class Harold Z. W. Holstein, 1917 – 1981, World War II

Helen Gill O’Connor, 1927 – 1975, spouse of Private Donald O’Connor, World War II

Private Donald O’Connor, 1924 – 1978, World War II

First Lieutenant James Francis O’Hare, 1919 – 2009, World War II and Korea


United States Navy Veteran and Spouses
Leah H. Dahn, 1902 – 2008, spouse of Ensign Robert Albert Dahn, World War I

Ellenora E. Dwiggins, 1922 – 1980, spouse of Seaman First Class Robert Lee Dwiggins, World War II

Yeoman Second Class Mary Josephine Quinn Frank, 1894 – 1981, World War I

Elizabeth P. Reynolds, 1912 – 2007, spouse of Lieutenant Clarence Kelly Reynolds, World
War II


United States Air Force Veterans and Spouses
Corporal Benjamin A. Adams, United States Army Air Corps, 1904 – 1972, World War II

Kathryn Selina Hussey, 1927 – 1975, spouse of Staff Sergeant Roland Frank Hussey, United States Army Air Corps, World War II

Chief Master Sergeant Julian L. Morgan (Retired), 1917 – 1988, World War II, Korea and

Virginia Wier Thomas, 1927 – 2006, spouse of Staff Sergeant Clair A. Thomas, United States Army Air Force, World War II

Staff Sergeant Clair A. Thomas, United States Army Air Force, 1922 – 2006, World War II


United States Coast Guard Veteran
Port Securityman Petty Officer Second Class Tyler Watts, Sr., 1901 – 1968, World War II


United States Coast Guard Merchant Marine Veteran
Paul Christie, 1910 – 1976, World War II

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