WWII veterans receive military funerals decades after remains went unclaimed
By SHAWN R. BEALS | The Hartford Courant | Published: August 10, 2018
HARTFORD, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — State officials and veterans groups gave a military funeral service Friday to four World War II veterans whose remains weren’t claimed after they died.
The service at the State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown is the latest in a years-long effort to provide veterans with the dignified burials they’re due but never received.
Carl Brannon of Darien died in 1966, Charles Noonan of Darien died in 1973, Arthur Chappell of Meriden died in 1977 and George Church of Wallingford died in 2001.
Family and friends never claimed their cremated remains after their deaths, and they sat in limbo at funeral homes without a final resting place.
“Even though these men passed with no family or friends or loved ones to honor them, we gather here today to remember them and to provide them the military honors they earned in service to their country in a time of war,” said Veterans Affairs Commissioner Thomas Saadi.
“These departed brothers stepped forward to fight for freedom and in doing so held our flag high as a symbol of liberty, freedom and justice,” Saadi said.
The Connecticut Funeral Directors Association has worked with the Missing in America Project and the state Department of Veterans Affairs for 10 years to provide military honors.
Funeral directors established a statewide protocol in 2008 for attempting to contact family members and tracking down military service records.
Friday’s funeral service was the fifth since 2009 and the third in the last four years.
So far, 22 veterans have been buried with military honors under the program.
Several more remains have been identified, and funeral directors are in the process of looking for family members, said Edward Sheehy, Jr., president of the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association.
The association pays for the funeral costs and transportation, and also receives donations from monument companies and individual funeral homes, Sheehy said.
Although it’s rare, remains can go unclaimed for a variety of reasons, he said. Sometimes a person has few close family members nearby or their burial wishes aren’t known to surviving relatives.
Each of the four veterans was also posthumously awarded the Connecticut Wartime Service Medal on Friday during the funeral service.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman the four WWII veterans are an example of the selfless service the country has received from its veterans.
“We might not know these gentlemen, but we have not forgotten them, and we want to bury them in a place in which they are with other brothers and sisters,” Wyman said.
“We don’t forget when we come here how many of the people here have given us the shoulders to stand on to make this country a better place,” she said.
The State Veterans Cemetery is in the midst of a renovation project that is expanding the available space for cremated remains and repairing some of the facilities.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the five funeral services since the effort began send a message that veterans in Connecticut will be honored and respected for their service.
“The great thing about the ‘Greatest Generation’ is that they defeated an enemy intent on destroying us, but then they came back and they did in peacetime a service for our nation every bit as meaningful,” Blumenthal said. “They built the interstates, they desegregated the schools, they put a man on the moon, they demonstrated American Patriotism.”
Area veterans groups escorted a funeral procession from the Department of Veterans Affairs in Rocky Hill, and held flags up in the cemetery during the service.
Veterans who are involved in their communities can be assured that their service isn’t taken for granted, said Middletown Council of Veterans Commander David Roane.
“They may end up in a situation like this, but this shows them even though they don’t have a family around, they have a military family of brothers and sisters who will recognize their service to this country,” Roane said.
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