On January 11th I participated with the Patriot Guard in a memorial ceremony at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery to honor and inter the remains of six veterans from WWI and WWII. Their cremated remains were located through "Missing in America", a fairly new national effort to locate unclaimed cremated remains of veterans, and to give them the honor and respect they deserve.
The cremains of these six veterans were all located in a mortuary in St. Louis and were the first ones to be interred in Missouri so far. Others have been located but there is a lengthy legal process that is still in the works.
Six of the Patriot Guard Riders met at the mortuary to provide motorcycle escort to the cemetery. The rest of us met earlier elsewhere and rode in a double bike line with police escort to the cemetery where we set up a flag line leading to the chapel. (Since Jay was working, I just followed in the van with a few other cars.) I was standing in that flag line until they asked some of us including me to go inside the chapel with our flags.
There was a lot of activity while everyone waited for the hearse to arrive. Kilt wearing bagpipe players (who I learned were St. Louis firemen) were practicing, six soldiers waited, one to carry each urn... TV cameras were there, the bugle player warmed up, speakers... Congressman Carnahan, Major General King Sidwell (MO Adjacent General, whatever that means), and others milled around. I can't remember who they all were. What I DO remember is listening to the general give his speech and watching the tears run down his cheeks.
During the ceremony each of the six soldiers carried one urn while a brief military history of the deceased veteran was read and bagpipes played off in the distance. One at a time they slowly carried the urn through the chapel to the table at the front where everyone saluted. Even though there were six veterans it seemed like they each got their own little chunk of time. Some of these veterans were highly decorated. When all of the urns had been placed on the table, taps was played and a 21 gun salute. (I assume it was 21... I only heard three shots, but someone told me that there are seven soldiers shooting all at once so that makes 21) The ceremony ended with a passing in review led by General Sidwell, who paused in front if each urn and saluted.
One of the speakers pointed out that we have heard the military history of these vets, but nothing about their personal lives.... they were sons, fathers, husbands. Whatever struggles they went through in their lives is unknown. How they ended up "unclaimed" on a shelf in a mortuary is also unknown, but finally they have received the honor and respect they deserve.
I was very touched by the event. When I got home I called the MO state chairman for the Missing in America Project (also a Patriot Guard member) and offered to contact the mortuaries here in Fulton. I figured it was something that I can and should take part in. I had thought about it in the past but never moved on it. Now I will.
You can read about the Missing In America Project here:
Missing in America Project website
You can see pictures of the ceremony at Jefferson Barracks here:
Pictures of the Memorial Ceremony
You can read the "Mission Report" here:
January 11, 2008 Jefferson Barracks Mission Report