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The Dansville Online
  • After long wait, veterans’ remains finally interred

  • Due to recent legislation, unclaimed remains can be researched after 120 days by others and, if found to be a veteran, can be buried with full military honors. This is known as Veteran Recovery Program, an initiative Patriot Guard Riders organize with private, state and federal organizations throughout New York State.

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  • It seems almost incomprehensible.
    Remains of veterans who served our country have gone unclaimed, therefore having been cremated and having sat in the basement of funeral homes, some for decades, across New York awaiting for someone to claim them. Veterans are not the only unclaimed remains stored inside funeral homes.
    Due to recent legislation, unclaimed remains can be researched after 120 days by others and, if found to be a veteran, can be buried with full military honors. This is known as Veteran Recovery Program, an initiative Patriot Guard Riders organize with private, state and federal organizations throughout New York State.
    Remains of eight formerly unclaimed soldiers were buried with honors in Bath National Cemetery Friday, the seventh time such a ceremony has been done in that cemetery since 2010; and the second time this year. PGR chapters from local regions participated in the ceremony, as well as other motorcycle groups such as American?Legion Riders.
    The eight cremated remains came from Buffalo-based Amigone Funeral Home. The hearse was met by the motorcycle riders in Mt. Morris, an estimated 75 to 80 in all, who escorted the hearse to the cemetery.
    Members from Buffalo Disabled American?Veteran Chapter 203 also attended the ceremony to pay their respects, as did some PGR riders from?Canada.
    As their designated charity for the year, Buffalo Chapter of Teamsters Horsemen motorcycle club symbolically acted as the family for the veterans, with the exception of one soldier whose relatives were found, and who attended the ceremony.
    This was the second such ceremony in which Wayland American Legion Color Guard attended.  
    In his eulogy, PGR’s VRP state coordinator and assistant PGR state captain Bill Schaaf said, “We do not know the circumstances that led these heroes to be with us today, we make no judgements. Reasons can be complex and not fully understood.”
    He went on to say that the veterans will no longer be left in the custodial care of a funeral home, that they will now be given the full military honors they deserve, and it is being done simply because it is the right thing to do.
    Schaaf then listed the eight veterans by name, and how long their ashes have awaited this moment:
    • PFC Ignacious George Miano, US Army (1 year)
    • SP3 William Zufall, US?Army, (4 years)
    Page 2 of 2 - LTC Steven Gittler, US?Army, World War II (8 years)
  • Tec 4 Joseph W. Lampone, US?Army (13 years)
  • Sgt John B. Worden, US?Army, World War II (15 years)
  • Tec 4 Robert H.?Glenn, US?Army, World War II (16 years)
  • Tec 4 David C. Diefendorf, US?Army, World War II, (27 years)
  • Pvt Brockway Henry Gray, US?Army (38 years).
    Corning American Legion Honor Guard then sounded off the 21-gun salute. As the grounds were quieted, the haunting notes of “Taps” echoed throughout the grounds. American flags were then folded by military personell who presented each one in turn to the family and adopted families of the soldiers.
    “It’s very moving,”?Pat Willsea, Springwater town councilwooman and Springwater American Legion Rider said after the ceremony. This was the first she attended.
    “It was quite an honor, very emotional,”?Bill Morgan, also a Springwater Legion Rider said. This was the second VRP ceremony in Bath National Cemetery he attended. During his first, he stood in as an honorary family member for a veteran, and was presented with a flag.
    He plans on having it framed, and then donated to the Springwater Legion Post. Names of the VRP deceased will be read at Springwater Memorial Day services.
    “They were forgotten once, once is enough,”?Morgan said.
    Denis Oliver, Steuben County Veterans Service officer, as well as a Patriot Guard Rider and Bath American Legion Rider, usually helps facilitate the service, but this time, he attended as a rider.  
    “I feel privileged to be able to do my part in helping to organize these services and now riding with the Patriot Guard escort. It is the final acknowledgement of service and sacrifice that we can bestow upon these veterans who have served our country. We try to send them to their just reward with the honor and dignity they have earned.”
    About half of the state’s VRP interment ceremonies so far have been in Bath National Cemetery.