Project aims to make sure no veteran is forgotten - Tucson News Now

Project aims to make sure no veteran is forgotten

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

As we remember the sacrifices made by our veterans, there's a small group of people dedicated to making sure no veteran in our country is forgotten.

The Missing in America Project has only been active in Arizona for a couple years and already they've made sure dozens of local war heroes are getting a proper burial fit for a soldier.

A small section at Evergreen Cemetery is known as the pauper's gravesite, a place where the unidentified, the homeless, and the unknown are buried.

Some of them are veterans. They survived the wars and this organization wants to make sure their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

A war hero name Gregoria Castano was found buried in a pauper's grave.

"We found out he was not only a veteran but he was an awardee of a purple heart.  Better than that, a bronze star of valor in World War II," said Jim Fuller, with Arizona's Missing in America project. 

Thanks to the Missing in America project and some forensic science, this forgotten war hero was identified and given a funeral fit for a soldier. The funeral that he deserved.

"At the funeral the other day the coroners office, people trained to have resilience, people from the coroner's office cried," said Fuller. 

Thousands of veterans remains are stacked up on shelves in county morgues and state hospitals.

Cremated remains of forgotten heroes who served our country, but on their last day there was no one to serve them and give them that burial they deserved.

These remains are lying in plastic bags, cardboard boxes and in one particular case "they were found in Campbell soup cans," said Fuller. 

Nationwide, volunteers with MIAP have found the remains of more than 2,000 war veterans, 400 of them in Arizona.

To date, 74 have been given the proper burial. 70 of those veterans are from Tucson, now buried at the state cemetery in Sierra Vista.

"Most of them were homeless vets.  There were a few that probably just outlived their families," Fuller said. 

No matter what their story, or their rank "at some point they saw fit to sign their name on a dotted line that said I will serve my country.  I am willing to give my life for this country.  This country should honor them," he said. 

One funeral at a time, this organization of volunteers have dedicated their lives to making sure our veterans get the honor they deserve, even after their death.

"The slogan, the mantra of the Missing in America project is it's the right thing to do," he said. 

To find out more on the Missing in America project click here: http://bit.ly/ZySECn. 

Copyright 2012 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved. 

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