The following news article is seen periodically across America.
Servicemen and women who died without family or friends to see to their final rest. The remains languish in obscurity. At some point, the remains are rediscovered and those who cherish the same qualities of the deceased reach out and take them to their final resting place. Their deeds and actions are unspoken; it is sufficient to know that they served our Country. Those of us left behind express our gratitude and share the sorrow of their loss.
Little is known of Harris, Orton, Papinchak, Topp and Stevenson, but they were welcomed by a crowd of about 200 at Fort Sam’s assembly area, including members of the Alamo Silver Wings Airborne Association, volunteers from Wreaths Across America, Patriot Guard Riders, and the post’s Memorial Services Detachment, which provides final honors to veterans at the cemetery. “I don’t know if it was PTSD or whatever that we suffered from, some of the horrific scenes that we saw, but I just … suppressed those memories, and I kind of regret that,” added Rios, 68, of San Antonio. […] that I’m retired, I have extra time and it’s very gratifying to be able to do something like this. The final salute occurred because three people who had never served in the military lived by one of its highest core values — refusing to leave a fallen comrade behind. Carver got in touch with Tanner, the custodian of the remains, and reached out to a San Antonio Military Medical Center volunteer named Joyce Earnest, the Texas coordinator for the Missing in America Project, a group that hopes to give final honors to an estimated 25,000 veterans nationwide whose remains have not been claimed. Carver, 59, now the Texas Panhandle representative for the Missing in America Project, said getting their first confirmation from the Veterans Administration on one of the basement urns was “like finding a lost loved one.” At the start of a somber ceremony that ran about an hour, 10 MacArthur High School JROTC cadets brought the urns of each man before the crowd, setting them on a table next to five folded American flags. Fort Sam’s Memorial Services Detachment fired three volleys, and a pair of buglers played echo taps in the distance. Earnest, who confirmed their service records with the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, didn’t know much about their lives, but federal privacy law also prohibits disclosing personal information about them. All died homeless or destitute, four of them in Potter County. A San Antonio Honor Flight volunteer who is president of the Brooke Army Medical Center Retiree Activities Group and works on Mondays as an unpaid clerk in one of the hospital’s four trauma intensive care units said this was her first homeless veteran burial.