Powerful moment as unclaimed veterans laid to rest in Sarasota cemetery

Reporter: Erika Jackson
Published: Updated:
Tombstones of the deceased in Sarasota. (Credit: WINK News)
Tombstones of the deceased in Sarasota. (Credit: WINK News)

The veterans who were buried in a Sarasota cemetery had no known family members. They were laid to rest on Thursday in a special ceremony – the largest in our area in years.

The remains of 17 people, 12 of which are veterans, were left unclaimed for as long as 17 years. But finally, the American service members had the farewell they deserved. It was a goodbye with honor and dignity.

Cpt. James Albert, the second vice-president of the Collier County Veterans Council, took the 100 mile trek to properly honor his fellow service men and women.

“They should not be laid to rest by themselves,” Albert said.

More than half of the veterans and their spouses were laid to rest at the Sarasota National Ceremony died in Southwest Florida. Each one was honored by ringing a bell in their name.

“The most touching part,” Albert said, “is the actual laying to rest of the brave men and women who have served our country.”

The service was momentous. Kathy Church, Florida state coordinator of the Missing in America Project, said it is the largest group burial of veterans in Southwest Florida since 2015.

“Seventeen is a number that is significant,” Church said. “These veterans have sat so long forgotten that they definitely deserve this full honor military service.”

Thursday marks the 21st service in Florida for the Missing in America Project. More than 300 veterans, 100 spouses and one child have been properly laid to rest though its Veteran Recovery Program.

While there was no family in sight, hundreds of people were out showing their respect for the men and women who gave so much.

“I can see that people didn’t want them to be forgotten,” Albert said.

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