‘Everyone deserves a final resting place’

Serving in the U.S. Army, Terrence Sund drowned while searching a tunnel in Vietnam 1967. His body was sent home and was cremated. Then, his cremated remains were interred in a room at a cemetery in Wisconsin for decades.

Thanks to Department of Wisconsin American Legion efforts, Sund received a full military burial last summer. And the department has helped draft a bill that will ensure the remains of veterans not claimed by family members will be released so that the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) can arrange a military burial at one of the state’s veteran cemeteries.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Legionnaire Steve Conto was able to raise funds so that Sund could get the funeral he deserved. Since then, the Department of Wisconsin has set up a fund to assist with burial costs for similar deceased veterans.

Department Adjutant Dave Kurtz said the effort has been a partnership between the Legion, Gov. Scott Walker and the WDVA. Waukesha County Veterans Service Officer Tom Ludka was instrumental in helping with the legislation, and Department Vice Commander Cooper “has really picked up the torch on this effort,” Kurtz said.

Cooper, a member of Post 80 in New Richmond, said he couldn’t get the Sund story out of his head. He formed a committee tasked with seeing if there were any other veterans’ remains in similar situations in Wisconsin’s District 10.

Finding three, Cooper then expanded his search to the rest of the state, reaching out to more than 650 funeral homes. More than 40 such remains have been found. “I know there are more,” Cooper said. “There are a couple funeral home directors who have just started going through their records, or their records are in really bad shape.”

Of the remains that have been located, their situation usually falls into three categories, Cooper said: 25 percent have no known next of kin, 25 percent’s families have been unresponsive, and 50 percent have families who are happy to have the Legion help with the burial.

“To me, these guys are as important as POWs or MIAs,” Cooper said of the veterans’ remains. “They just happen to be on American soil. Everyone deserves a final resting place. These happen to be veterans who deserve full military honors. I’m going to make damn sure they get it.”

49 Comments

  1. As the Adjutant of the Smith-Wiley Post 4 in Gardiner, Me, I have been trying to get Albert Wiley home to Maine as he is one of the 2 Vets our Post is named for. He is presently at the Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. I have been in contact with both of our Senators & am told that the Government has no money to get Mr. Wiley home. Mr. Wiley is a Fallen Warrior & need to be in his own State. He only has 1 heir that can sign the forms but she is 85. Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks
  2. I am the Washington State Coordinator for the Missing In America Project. We are a National non-profit chartered for the purpose of searching for Vets left behind at Funeral Homes. Anyone wishing assistance interring a Veteran Relative in a National Cemetery need only e mail me, or contact the Veterans Administration. The VA website has a load of info on interring vets and their wives. My e mail is listed on the miap website. I notice that miap does not have a large presence in Wisconsin. Perhaps the people in the Legion Posts there would like to consider volunteering with miap. I am also glad to read the Department of Wisconsin provides financial support to the Legion members doing the recovery work. Department of Washington doesn't support me. Fortunately, Post 40 does provide considerable support. We have interred 317 Vets in WA. We have 69 more verified and we are conducting the Due Process work to legally inter them. We have researched over 1000 people left behind in Funeral Homes to obtain the Vets we've interred. Good job, Wisconsin. Keep it up. BP
  3. Perhaps there are folks who cannot contribute money but do own "extra" burial sites within their "family Plot". I'm sure there are numerous singleton plots owned by folks whose kids have moved out of state, have purchased their own "local" plots, etc. Anyone know of a directory of such plots as have been donated to a veteran's group within each state?
  4. Have you considered soliciting vet families that would take and honor cremated remains with or without known information about the soldier they are honoring?
  5. We at American Legion Post 8, are in the process of getting a vet buried with military honors to no avail. We know he was a vet, he has not relatives, and we cannot access a 214, because the records were lost in a fire at the records center. This is so frustrating. We have jumped through every hoop still no authorization. He deserves and has earned the right of military burial but we can not prove it on paper. We will accept any assistance we can get. Please contact us through the Colorado, American Legion. We are Post 8 in Rocky Ford, Colorado.
  6. Brothers and Ladies, I invite you all to look intently on this website, njsmissionofhonor(DOT)org (can't publish actual website here). We Vietnam Era Vets began this program just for this purpose back in 2006 but it took 3 years to change state legislation to ALLOW funeral homes to provide veterans ashes to us for proper military burial. Since 7-5-2009 we're buried 189 abandoned veterans but have reunited 250 with their family members! I am the Vice Chairman and State Chaplain (also a transplanted Milwaukeean & member of Legion Post 371 N.J.) providing a eulogy for each. Please check our website and develop your own state Mission of Honor for Cremains of American Veterans! May God bless all who have served this Great Nation in uniform!!!!
  7. Sir & Ms, I was in Agnew State Hospital in the 60s to 70s (3 months) . It came to my attention due to the horrors of war and the need to serve many minor diabled veterans chose to admittance in private, state and civilian hospitals. In many of these cases so many ex-mitilary personal who wish to return to service chose these as opposed to VA MED CENTERS. Many, before humane and care was considered were buried on the grounds of mental institutions, private and public hospitals. Documentation was horrific but is sitll available through records of patients interred. There is a program in the American Legion whose forensic ability discoverd this unhuman situation. IE = MISSING IN AMERICA PROJECT
  8. Several years ago I with hundreds others had the honor to attend Missing in America's ceremony for the interment in Arizona's National Cemetery of the unclaimed remains of 27 veterans, one from WW1, another a Medal of Honor recipient. Thanks to all who are working to correct this long over due honor.
  9. As an American Legion member and Viet-Nam era veteran "69-72" I send my thanks and my gratitude to all those whose efforts continue to strive to make things easyer on our families and our brother and sister veterans who have served God and America. A place of final rest will finally be written into law so all vets can finally rest.
  10. There are the remains of Frank Seely June in a funeral home in Flagler, Florida because of the $$ cost $$ of receiving his ashes. I offered $50 and if I could have received the container would have placed the ashes with my dad, his brother. I advised the funeral home that their cost of over $ 565 was outrageous and that my being in my late seventies had a bearing on the cost. If as an veteran of the U.S. Army, Frank Seely June, his vial, can be recovered by the Vet, please do so.
  11. I am the American Legion member, who has located, most of these Veterans. The problem with th unclaimed cremains, is not with the VA. The funeral homes, will seldom release "any" cremains, without s signature, of a relative. If they do, a relative who shows up, later on, can sue them, and they are not willing to take the risk. Without a release, from the funeral home, the VA will not accept, the Veteran, because they are then liable. The bill before the legislature, will fix this problem. In it's current form, it says, that if a funeral home, has unclaimed cremains of a Veteran, beyond 90 days, they can be released to the State, or a Veterans Service Officer. The bill, also protects the funeral home, from anyone suing them, in the future. As soon as the bill, becomes law, we can proceed with, getting the 45 Veterans laid to rest, with full military honors, free of charge to the families.
  12. Ed, you should contact the "Missing in America Project" in Missouri. They may be able to give you some help on getting the remains released. Good luck and thank you for what You are doing, you are a wonderful American.
  13. Thank-you Wisconsin American Legion and others in this story for leading the effort to give every serviceman and woman a proper and respectful burial. our country, especially our Congress and House of Representatives, have long forgotten the extraordinary sacrifices those who have served honorably defending the freedoms we Americans take for granted. Every single veteran deserves a proper funeral with full military honors whether homeless, cremated, a discovered missing POW or MIA, or abandoned by family members for whatever reason. Military servicemen and women ----all Soldiers---deserve the decency of a proper military funeral; no matter how costly it is. It is the vry least our country can do for their service to the nation. Only 1% of the American population has served in the military and that makes them an elite, if you will, group. We must continue to teach and mentor our children on the time honored history of serving our fellow man, serving our nation, and serving Almighty God. We must teach them that patriotism is very important. Serving others is one of the greatest legacy's and gifts one can leave to their families. The time honored traits of leadership: honor, selfless service, integrity, character, mentoring, work ethic, ethics, morality, loyalty, responsibility, accountability, and God are vital to the survival of our country. We in the military culture , whether retired, on active duty, or a reservist, must continued to instill theses traits of leadership and values in our children and society. we must vote and hold our elected leaders feet to the fire as they continue to erode military benefits systematically. We must continue to exercise our right to vote and be involved in the political process. Duty! Honor! Country! Hooah!
  14. I have been looking for assistance in positively identifying a John Doe, whose remains were found in a river bed and was believed to be a VIetnam Veteran. He was affiliated with our local moose chapter. His remains were found on January 12, 2012 and have been with the local authorities (Sheriffs Department). I would appreciate any help. Thank you
  15. I have been looking for assistance in positively identifying a John Doe, whose remains were found in a river bed and was believed to be a VIetnam Veteran. He was affiliated with our local moose chapter. His remains were found on January 12, 2012 and have been with the local authorities (Sheriffs Department). I would appreciate any help. Thank you
  16. I think all Veteran's of any and all associations should focus on the homeless veterans with PTSD too sick to get help, but too "sane" looking to get by in the streets. The dead are dead, lets focus on the living. I did not understand why the cremated remains of the Vietnam Vet resting in Wisconsin needed to be disturbed. Let's disturb the living for the living (Veterans Admin., etc.).
  17. Why is the American Legion doing what the VA is supposed to do in this country? There is something fundamentally wrong with the government in this country.
  18. Because we should! Our VA is still not doing their job! The American Legion has to continue to stand up for all of us veterans!
  19. For a Veteran, any Veteran, to be forgotten in life - (Homeless Veterans) - is a disgrace. To be ignored in death is an insult which must never be allowed to happen! Regardless of our capacity, we all hold the title of "Veteran." That is one honor which can never be repudiated or laid aside. We respected our Nation enough to serve, it is only fitting the country responds with a "Thank You," and to say goodbye with proper respect by providing full military honors. As a Veteran myself - "Vietnam 66-67" - I have shared my wishes with my children. I will not hear the rifle volley, nor taps played by a bugler, yet I've been to enough funerals to know what transpires there. And regardless of "P.C.", "budget cuts" or "manpower shortages" I'm confident my kids will do their best to grant my wishes.
  20. The Legion needs to have on their website how, when, where, we veterans may apply for these burial rights. The VA have me a complicated form that I don't know how to fill out. It would be nice to fill out out on line, pay the Legion for the help in submitting these forms. Many veterans are kept in the dark and when death comes, they are left with their bodies unclaimed.
  21. I am still in the unknown stage of where to bury my husbands remains WWII marine. Memorial plots not available in western part of Mich. Are there any other private burial plots for veterans in state?
  22. Contact the VA Cemetery closest to your home. If you need other assistance, the Legion or Missing In America Project will help you.
  23. I served with a medical unit in the !st Cav Division and went with my units twice to Iraq. OIF 2 (ending MAR 2005) and OIF 4 (ending DEC 2007). Very few people must know about stories such as this; remains of Viet Nam Era and perhaps other conflicts/wars, that sit on a shelf unclaimed? WOW. You would think a funeral Director would have done all he or she could, to contact family members, especially since the Internet has been available. Thank you for what you are doing in Wisconsin. I am sure in every state, there are situations like this. A vet in PA.
  24. This is not something new members of the Patriot Guard Riders in S. CA have been doing these honors for vets for around 10 years at Riverside National Cem. It's every Weds. They have honored over 3000 vets. The honors are called Veterans Without Families. God Bless all Veterans
  25. This is not something new members of the Patriot Guard Riders in S. CA have been doing these honors for vets for around 10 years at Riverside National Cem. It's every Weds. They have honored over 3000 vets. The honors are called Veterans Without Families. God Bless all Veterans
  26. Larry, Good comment & true. Those interested can go to Clint Martin's page on YouTube and view these Honors. By the way, Larry, you should have left me your harmonica! Not to worry though, I'm buying a bugle to play "TAPS". Everyone at VWF sends their love to you. (You should move back - we miss you!)
  27. Larry, Good comment & true. Those interested can go to Clint Martin's page on YouTube and view these Honors. By the way, Larry, you should have left me your harmonica! Not to worry though, I'm buying a bugle to play "TAPS". Everyone at VWF sends their love to you. (You should move back - we miss you!)
  28. In this particular situation, I just feel bad that whomever authorized the cremation did not try to follow through with the veteran's wishes. While many of my ancestors served with distinction, not chose a military burial. While they remain in our thoughts, few in the extended family visit those we have lost in the past. For the last three decades of those who have passed, most have had their ashes scattered by family members and friends; that is also my wish. I just hope that other veterans express their wishes before they pass on.
  29. I have no idea where my Uncle, Frederick L. Bentz, Army, European/German POW may have died sometime in the 90's. He was from Mauston, WI but remained homeless for over 50 years after WWII. Back then he was referred to as a hobo and would bounce around from WI, IL, FL, TX, AZ, and NV. His last recorded place of residency was the VA at Tomah, WI. How can one initiate the search for my Uncle's demise and final resting place? I suspect that it could be an unmarked pauper's grave, a sorry end to a former POW.
  30. Thanks for doing this wonderful work! I went to work for VA in 1983. I told people I did it because I hated the VA (Vietnam-era disabled veteran), and wanted to make them better. I'll bet Lyle did that for NCA, too. (Thanks, Lyle. It's ONE VA!) I was all over the place in the VA system, retiring from the dreaded VACO. Thank God the Legion is doing what VA won't do. We're all still serving, I guess.....
  31. Perhaps that is part of God's plan, to keep us busy, involved and together somehow.
  32. I take a bit of exception to Cooper's view that everyone deserves a final resting place. Only 7% of the citizens of the USA serve in the military. Every veteran deserves a final resting place, but I have no such feelings toward those who refuse to serve. And, of course, in death as in life, veterans always need to stick together, and take care of each other, but the civilians can fend for themselves.
  33. Dr. Clifford, I can identify with your position, but it stands in direct opposition to the reason we all served. Not everyone can, not everyone wants to serve, but we served to protect the rights of everyone. It is out of love of country and all its inhabitants that we serve. God forgive those who are unappreciative and ignorant. God forgive you, too, for your bitterness. Your service and your contributions to this great nation ARE appreciated by the vast majority of civilians... they just haven't had the opportunity to personally tell you. You are not alone, nor are you forgotten. Chuck Landreth
  34. I concur with the good doc, we all should remember that some military members the only family they ever knew were the soldiers in the service they served. A military member a unmarked grave or in stowage is a dishonor to them and those of us who went on to lead productive lives.Nobody left behind extends past death and recovery if nobody claimed their remains then they belong to us as debt of honor.
  35. I think that everyone deserves a final resting place, but veterans deserve a little more than the "Potter's Fields" where we put the homeless and indigent, and certainly more than the almost unmarked graves which some people who are executed and others who die in prison are granted. As for those who refused to serve, I would say that they can go to Potter's Field right there with non-vet homeless and indigent. All of those who served honorably and live up to the words of their induction oath deserve recognition in death, even if they lacked it in life, so Godspeed to this project.
  36. white, t. I agree so much there is to many of the political offices that are allowed burials with top military honors, flag half staff and never served even outside their offices. they just sign their names that send young boys and girls to far away countries, some never to come home again. give back the respect and love they need. Viet Nam 1968-1970
  37. I believe it was implied when he said everyone he was talking about all the service members that were cremated and for some reason not claimed. Otherwise I'm with you. We have to do what we can to take care of one another.
  38. When you.cremate, it shocks the soul. There is life after death in the spirit world. The soul is eternal. We take out attributes with us, e.g., honesty, kindness, trustworthiness, and that becomes our heaven. If we take the opposite attributes, that becomes our hell. All veterans, God be with you. We've sacrificed and we deserve a just burial.
  39. I would like to thank your husband as well for all his work and research. Thank God for veterans like him to care enough to make sure all these former veterans are properly taken care of with an honorable funeral.
  40. Please contact Jan Peterson with the Missing In America Project. She can help and share information regarding the search for cremated remains. She has volunteers working to locate veterans remains stored at funeral homes in WI. She is the State Coordinator for WI. The Missing In America Project is a national veteran recovery effort. Visit miap dot us. You'll find her in the "contact us" tab under Wisconsin.
  41. As a fellow veteran serving in the early 80.s and still serving today in the American Legion in the great state of Minnesota. I think all departments should look into this and do the proper military honor rights to all who deserve them. This could also be handled by each post checking with the local funeral home and raising funds Thursday donation. God bless each one of our soldiers sailors that have been forgotten this way. Lets do them there honors with pride
  42. As a fellow veteran serving in the early 80.s and still serving today in the American Legion in the great state of Minnesota. I think all departments should look into this and do the proper military honor rights to all who deserve them. This could also be handled by each post checking with the local funeral home and raising funds Thursday donation. God bless each one of our soldiers sailors that have been forgotten this way. Lets do them there honors with pride
  43. Don't forget to instruct your families to request military funeral honors through funeral directors or American Legion/VFW posts. All the military needs is your DD-214 for proof of service. Also, the organization Bugles Across America exists to provide live volunteer buglers in place of the taped recording (Sgt. Sony!) that is usually used. Their web site is self-explanatory.
  44. I too am a USAF veteran (63-68)...have already been provided in my will to be buried in Washington Crossing Military Cemetary (Washington Crossing, Pa). Every vet should check their benefits and if so, suggest burial in military cemetery, with all of the brothers in arms and wing men.....
  45. I am a Decorated Vietnam War Veteran. All Service Men and Women who severe in the Military Service should be given a military burial in all Cemeteries. Because they gave their lives and protected our country from terrorist attacks. Honor them and Present each family with and Present them with a American Flag to show what their sons and daughters gave to protect this country.
  46. Apparently we need to work on this still ... (As this post will not allow links, I'll have to improvise) usnews dot nbcnews dot com then enter /_news/2011/12/08/9290603-report-air-force-dumped-remains-of-274-troops-in-landfill
  47. My husband has worked very hard on this a very big THANK YOU TO HIM for doing this to honor to these Veterans!
  48. As a former employee of the National Cemetery Administration I will tell you that research and placement of unclaimed veterans is a high priority within NCA. A discharge document is the best proof but an ID card, set of orders or even a picture has been used to verify someones eligibility. Keep in mind that a DD 214 went into service as the discharge document of choice in the 1950's so earlier service will require a different document based on the branch of service as each branch had their own document.
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