Funeral director: No way of knowing if unclaimed remains are vet - WNEM TV 5

Funeral director: No way of knowing if unclaimed remains are veterans

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

The remains of veterans have gone unclaimed for years and now there's an effort to get them properly buried.

A folded American flag is a final honor for fallen military veterans. It is presented to their families at funerals.

"Our veterans deserve a proper burial," said Paul Campbell, funeral director Campbell-Stocking Family Funeral Home.

He said there may be some who served who have never receive that honor. In his funeral home there are the cremated remains of 16 people sitting on shelves. One of them dates back to 1965. He said he has no way of knowing if they served in the military.

"We need a discharge paper for the veteran," Campbell said.

A local veteran is doing what he can to ensure unclaimed military vets get a proper military burial. However, identifying whether a person served is not possible without the help of next of kin.

"We have to prove that they're a veteran and that's a hard thing for us to do," Campbell said.

Many are stuck on the shelves because they have no family. Funeral directors don't have access to military records otherwise.

"We don't have a database available to us. If there was a database available to us, we could look up the name of the deceased because we have their birth date, their social security, whatever. We could possibly find if they were veterans or not," Campbell said.

He said without access his hands are tied.

"We don't want to have the remains here. We have no desire to have them here. We would just like to have everyone, even if they're not a veteran, to have the proper burial and be with the correct next of kin or family members, where they should be," Campbell said.

Campbell said funeral home are not able to publicize the names or information of the unclaimed deceased in hopes of finding a connection because of medical privacy laws.

To do that, he needs the consent of family members, which is a conflicting dilemma.

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