MADERA COUNTY -“You served your country through a war, or through peacetime,” the message says. “You expected to receive a military burial, recognition by our government of your commitment to our great country.
“You expected to have honor and respect paid to you as a result of your service to our great country. Instead, you reside on a shelf in a mortuary or a storage facility at a crematorium.”
This haunting missive is posted on the homepage of the Missing in America Project (MIAP), whose mission it is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of forgotten American veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations.
Launched in January 2007, the stated intention of the Project is “to provide honor and respect to those who have served this country by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes.”
On Friday, Mar. 28 at 10 a.m., the MIAP, with assistance from Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1981, Smith Manor Grace Chapel, Madera County Veterans Services Office, and the Madera County Board of Supervisors, will conduct full military honors for U.S. Air Force veteran Carlton Neal Jr. at the VFW, 2026 N. Granada Ave, Madera.
Carlton Neal Jr., a Cold War veteran and former Chowchilla resident, proudly served in the United States Air Force from Sept. 4, 1958 to Oct. 11, 1960. Neal will be the first recovered unclaimed Madera County resident to be honored in the Missing In America Project.
Chaplain Ed Rosen will conduct honor ceremonies for Mr. Neal followed by a motorcycle escort by Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) from the VFW Post 1981 to San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella. All are invited to attend the ceremony. Services will conclude with a small social at the VFW Post 1981 to honor this American hero.
“This project has just begun,” says the MIA Project website. “We need to blanket every mortuary and cemetery in the United States and let them know there are people who desire to claim our veterans. We need to let them know it is our desire to see they are interred with the honor and respect they deserve.
“The veterans languishing on shelves need us. They need America to step forward and ensure they are buried with honor. They need America to show their thanks for their service. Without them, we would not have the freedoms we enjoy today. They served our great nation. It is now our great nation’s turn to serve them.“