Unclaimed remains of veterans receive military honors

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One by one, the remains of 23 forgotten military veterans and two spouses from World War I, World War II and the Korea and Vietnam war eras were carried out from the Manalapan Police Department on June 23 as they began the journey to their final resting place, the Brigadier Gen. William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown.

The event, Military Honors For Forgotten Veterans, coordinated by the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 12, the Manalapan Police Department and the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, provided veterans whose remains were never claimed with a salute to arms and a proper sendoff, according to a press release from the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office.

“We could never repay our veterans for the sacrifices they have made, but what we can do is never forget. It is vital that these veterans who served our country are given respect and provided a proper burial filled with dignity and honor,” Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said.

“The Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office is proud to be a part this significant event and thanks Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 12 for their commitment and tireless work to ensure these forgotten veterans receive full military honors,” Golden said.

The mission of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 12 is to identify and claim the cremated remains of honorably discharged veterans and their spouses who have been abandoned and left on shelves in funeral homes, according to the press release.

VVA Chapter 12 works with funeral homes in Monmouth and Ocean counties to identify and
provide those veterans with the proper military interment they have earned.

To date, 90 veterans or spouses have been interred and 23 were returned to family members by VVA Chapter 12, according to the press release.

“When I heard about veterans being abandoned on shelves at funeral homes I couldn’t believe it and I knew we had to do something, so it became my mission,” said Ernie Diorio, vice president of VVA Chapter 12.

“A lot of time and energy is put into this. You need to ensure veterans are honorably discharged, obtain their death and cremation certificates, and have a funeral with full military honors, but the results are extremely rewarding,” Diorio said.

The Military Honors for Forgotten Veterans ceremony at the Manalapan Police Department, where many people gathered, feature a salute to arms and a reading of the names of the 23 veterans and two spouses.

Their urns, with a flag on each one, were placed in a vehicle, which led the procession toward the veterans’ final resting place.

“Mayor Jack McNaboe, a veteran himself, and I could not be happier than to have this
opportunity to formally show honor and reverence to these deserving veterans,” Manalapan Police Chief Edward Niesz said.

“Hopefully an event like this demonstrates that the men and women who serve and sacrifice for our nation are never forgotten, and that duty, honor and service will be recognized,” Niesz said.

During the procession, three stops were made to pay tribute to the forgotten veterans, according to the press release.

Crowds gathered along the route at the Monmouth County Hall of Records in Freehold Borough; at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold Township; and, with the assistance of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, at Prospertown Lake in Jackson.

“There is an old saying that says may no veteran be left behind; we take that a step further in our chapter (with a saying) that says may no veteran be left behind either on the battlefield or on the shelf,” said Richard Gough, chairman of the Cremains Project, VVA Chapter 12.

Once the procession reached the cemetery in Wrightstown, there was a call to order, the posting of colors by the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office and the Manalapan Police Department Honor Guard, a presentation of arms, a prayer to honor the veterans, a flag presentation, “Taps” and the retiring of the colors, prior to the burial.

Also included in the service was a moment of reflection during which a bouquet of flowers was presented to family members and a flower was placed on each urn, for the 23 forgotten veterans and two spouses, according to the press release.