Veterans laid to rest in Phoenix without their families: 'Can’t describe it really'

An emotional ceremony was held at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona on Wednesday as more than a dozen veterans were laid to rest, unclaimed.

There were no family members there to speak for them or say their goodbyes.

The Missing in America Project says every veteran is given a promise, and on Jan. 4, they said that promise was fulfilled.

"It is very important. It brought us back together, too. So, it is mandatory to have family in these kinds of moments," said Robert Smith said – he was reached out to by the organization to say goodbye to his father who he lost touch with.

But for many, like most of the veterans being honored at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, there is no family.

Ron Reynolds received the flag for Air Force veteran John Hoover, a man he never knew. 

"Nobody responded," Reynolds said. "He had three relatives."

Reynolds said Hoover lost touch with his family, so he became family to Hoover.

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Daughters of the American Revolution brought in the urns of 13 veterans and two spouses who were unclaimed. For whatever reason, there’s no family to honor them.

"They were promised an honorable resting place when they passed, and we’re just fulfilling that promise," said Cary Cartter with the Missing in America Project.

The organization works behind the scenes to try to track someone, anyone, down.

That’s how Smith found out his dad Floyd had died. They lost touch years ago.

"Very emotional. I can’t describe it really. It hurts," Smith says.

For others where the family wasn’t located, a name is read, and a bell rings.

"It’s heartbreaking that there are so many of them that don’t have family members or their family members can’t be contacted. It took them months to find us, and we’re his children, so it’s heartbreaking to see so many unclaimed," Smith said.

Cartter remarks on the difficulty of finding the families of veterans.

"There are too many veterans going homeless. Going lost. Going missing here in the states and, all we’re trying to do is fulfill the promise that was made to them," Cartter said.

Missing in America says there are so many unclaimed veterans that they can hold services like this every two months.

If you'd like to help, they can use volunteers to track down families and more information can be found here.

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