A dozen veterans were honored in a long overdue memorial service Sunday at Camp Mabry, Texas, complete with a bugler sounding the mournful notes of taps and the blasts of a three-volley rifle salute.
The men, who served in the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force as long ago as World War II, were not highly decorated heroes for the history books. They were "unclaimed" veterans -- their remains were never claimed when they died.
For example, when Capt. James Hook --- who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam --- died in 1984, no family members or friends showed up, so an Austin-area funeral home cremated his remains and kept them on a shelf. The remains stayed there until the Missing in America Project found him.
"It's very sad to know that these remains have been sitting on a shelf somewhere for 80, 90 years sometimes," said chaplain Warren Wurzburger, the group's Texas coordinator. "It's very satisfying to know we can finally find them, identify them and give them the proper military honors that they deserve."
Hook and 11 other veterans who died, not in combat but years after their service ended, were memorialized with full military honors at Camp Mabry in West Austin. Their remains, kept in urns, are set to be escorted Monday to their final resting place at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.
"These men were almost lost to history, but their legacy has been resurrected," said state Rep. José Menéndez, a San Antonio Democrat.
About 200 people, including veterans, active-duty members of the military and reservists, attended the solemn ceremony Sunday. Among those was Ashlee Earley, a daughter of one of the veterans being honored.
Earley, of Dallas, was 20 months old when her father, Pfc. Donald Danylock, a veteran of Vietnam, died of a heart attack in 1989.
"I don't have any memories of my own of him, so this was a nice opportunity to make my own memories of him," Earley said.
Though some of her father's remains will be interred at the state cemetery, Earley said she was also given a portion of her father's ashes.
The veterans honored at the ceremony Sunday were:
--Capt. James Holver Hook (1903-1984), who served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946, during World War II, and in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1946 until 1964, in Korea and Vietnam.
--Pfc. Donald George Danylock (1955-1989), who served in the U.S. Army in 1972, in Vietnam.
--Staff Sgt. John Sidney Clevlen (1922-1982), who served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1945, during World War II.
--Pvt. Ernest Joseph Bellot (1936-2004), who served in the U.S. Army from 1961 to 1964, in Vietnam.
--Capt. David B. Douglas (1910-1998), who served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946, during World War II.
--James Ferguson Childress (1925-1986), who served in the U.S. Navy as a seaman second class from 1942 to 1946, during World War II; he served in the U.S. Army as a sergeant from 1946 to 1949; and he served in the U.S. Air Force as an airman first class from 1951 to 1961, in Korea.
--1st Lt. Robert Allen Rach (1924-1996), who served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953, in Korea.
--Hospital Corpsman William G. Mayes (1928-2005), who served in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1949, during World War II, and 1949 to 1965, in Korea and Vietnam.
--Cpl. Donald W. Klein (1924-2001), who served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946, during World War II. Klein was a combat soldier and was awarded the Bronze Star.
--Technician Fifth Grade Edgar R. Potratz (1914-1998), who served in the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945, during World War II.
--Spc. 4th Class Jerry Wiedemeier (1944-2006), who served in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1965, in Vietnam.
--Spc. 4th Class Jeffrey Albert Huebner (1959-2003), who served in the U.S. Army from 1977 to 1982.