Missing in America Project

This is about the most rewarding project/program I have been acquainted with in a long time. The work these fine motorcycle veterans do goes almost unnoticed and most people I come in contact with have never heard of the Missing in America Project (MIAP). The fact that so many cremains and remains lie in funeral homes or mortuaries throughout the Untied States and remain unburied came as a shock to me. More startling is that there are so many veterans who have never been given a proper, military honors-type burial.

Why I would write an article about veterans finding the remains of military veterans who are resting on the shelves of funeral homes and mortuaries throughout our country? I will try to explain.

About two years ago I was at the veteran’s cemetery located by the town of Igo, in Shasta County, CA. There was an event going on, where a group of leather-clad motorcycle riders were assembled and I asked about it. I learned that these bikers were veterans rendering honors to “passed on” veterans who had never been so honored. As I delved into the program, I was amazed to hear that hundreds, make that thousands, of unclaimed cremains (remains) are resting in funeral homes all over the United States. Many of these are veterans who were never given a proper burial, with military honors; some dating back to the American Civil War.

How it started
A few years ago Fred Salanti, a dedicated Viet-Nam veteran, then of Grants Pass, OR, found a veteran’s remains that were never claimed and, therefore, never buried. Investigating, Salanti came upon many unclaimed veteran’s cremains in many funeral homes and mortuaries locally and, on further research, nationally. Thus, the organization Missing in America Project was founded, and now the MIAP has become a nationwide organization. Their members work (mostly at their own expense) to bring these forgotten heroes’ cremains to a proper closing. Before the cremains can be buried in a state or national cemetery they must be properly identified and proven to be veterans, which sometimes takes hours of research. To demonstrate the lengths to which the research can go, a Buffalo Solider (from the 1800s Indian wars) was found in an indigent graveyard (boothill) outside of Phoenix, Arizona. This soldier had received our nation’s highest military decoration: the Medal of Honor.

Honoring our heroes

In 2009, local MIAP members found that there were two highly decorated veterans (Silver Star) from Shasta County who had not been interred nor honored. With their medals, they deserved to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Several MIAP members from the West Coast, along with Linda Hartman (a Shasta County Supervisor) and her family, formed a group to take the two veterans’ cremains to Arlington and give them a proper heroes’ burial. They mounted their motorcycles and, along with the Hartman’s motorhome, proceeded some 3,000 miles to Arlington National Cemetery. While en route they stopped in Phoenix and added the above-mentioned Medal of Honor holder’s cremains.

The Missing in America Project is a very worthwhile program that is not widely known. Our local MIAP group meets every other month at the Igo Cemetery where we render honors for the cremains that have been researched and collected.

As an added note, over 2,600 unclaimed remains have been found, of which 19 were from WWI and five were from our own Civil War. The research continues.

For more information, visit www.miap.us.