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Missouri Law Aims to Honor Veterans' Remains

In a perfect world, all military veterans would be given an honorable burial upon death. There are some veterans, though, who do not receive that honor. A new Missouri Law aims to fix that.

Many funeral homes hold on to unclaimed human remains, sometimes for years. This new law addresses the remains that may be those of veterans. Daniel Bell is with the Missouri Veterans Commission. He says this law removes the liability that prevents some funeral homes from turning over any remains to another organization, like a veteran’s cemetery, for burial.

“Funeral homes that have these remain that are unclaimed in general, they are kind of leery about turning those over because they’re worried that if a family member shows up months or years later asking for those remains, they’re always worried about the liability issue. This clears them of that liability issue,” Bell said. Bell says funeral homes can research the identities of people whose remains have been unclaimed, and determine if they are veterans. The veterans’ remains can then be turned over to the state of Missouri or national veteran’s cemeteries for proper burials. Bell says now, these veterans will receive the honor they deserve.“That includes usually an honor guard, playing of taps, and a 21-gun-salute. It’s to take care of the veterans, the people that served our country, that unfortunately were forgotten at their time of death. This is our way of remembering them,” he said. Bell says funeral homes are now releasing the remains they have held on to for many years. He says in one case, a soldier who died in 1928 was finally able to be buried honorably.“His remains had been moved from funeral home to funeral home as they were bought out and transferred, and they wound up in a storage facility in Fulton, Missouri. Once they did some research on names of those unclaimed remains, that’s how we found out he was a veteran from World War I,” said Bell.Chuck Wooten is from the Missouri Veteran’s Cemetery in Springfield. He says the cemetery held a ceremony for 11 veterans, mostly from the Ft. Wood Area, whose remains had been unclaimed. He says some of those veterans had died as far back as World War II.The new Missouri law also allows spouses to be buried alongside the veterans.

For KSMU News, I’m Adam Murphy.