'An experience I won't forget': 20 unclaimed veterans buried at National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona

Dozens of Arizonans said goodbye to 20 veterans who they've never met.

The Aug. 31 ceremony in north Phoenix in their honor was to make sure they were buried with full honors, despite having no family and no resources.

Every military member at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona served our country. It's a place that is quiet and sacred.

While taps played, emotions were high.

Jerry Goldsmith, a man from Phoenix who attended the ceremony, described the moment as "heartbreaking."

Apache Junction man Gary Sinclair said, "It's important to me. It should be important to everybody. We need to step up for everybody."

20 urns sat on the tables at the cemetery – all are veterans – and just like the thousands of others buried, they served, they protected, and they should be honored.

All 20 names of the unclaimed veterans were read aloud. They died without family and without resources.

"Many of the them at time of death didn't get their due diligence. No research was done to determine if they're veterans. The Missing in America Project took the time to research that, make that determination, and have ceremonies like this to pay tribute," said Randy Heard with the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.

Everyone at the ceremony paid tribute to veterans they never met, never knew. Well, almost everyone.

Sinclair knew one of the veterans.

"My wife and I just gave him that little bit of lift he needed to get going," he said.

He and his wife met Chris Pollum a few years back. He had no home or family.

So during his memorial, Sinclair was his family.

"Just sadness. All I think about is our veterans," he said. "All it takes is one person to help one person. My wife and I proved that. We're not rich, we don't have much, but as my mother said, ‘There’s always enough.'"

Sinclair accepted Pollum's American flag and says his new mission is to find a family member so the flag will find its home.

These 20 veterans are honored now and forgotten no more.

All it takes is an organization like the Missing in America Project, or sometimes, just one person like Sinclair, to make that happen.

"It's an experience I won't forget," he said.

The National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona opened in 1979. More than 78,000 veterans and their spouses are memorialized at the site.

The cemetery consists of 225 acres and will not reach capacity until well after the year 2030.