Lost Panhandle Veterans...To be given Military Honors


On April 21, 2017 at 10 am, the cremains of 4 Panhandle Veterans from Potter and Carson counties will be laid to rest and given a full National Military Honors Funeral Ceremony and burial at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.

The motorcade will be accompanied by the Patriot Guard motorcycle escort from Amarillo to San Antonio with stops along the way and local recognition at each stop in route to the National Cemetery.

The silent and untold story, to this point, is that each of these honored veterans were homeless, forgotten and unclaimed. It is a disheartening reality of our society that to many of our soldiers suffer from a number of debilitating effects of war and service to our country and for whatever reason life has thrown them a curve ball and they find themselves living in shelters, on the streets, park benches and alleys of our cities and towns.

A 2016 study indicates that 1.4 million veterans are at risk of homelessness. This may be due to poverty, overcrowding in government housing, and lack of support networks. Research indicates that those who served in the late Vietnam and post-Vietnam era are at greatest risk of homelessness. War-related disabilities or disorders often contribute to veteran homelessness, including physical disabilities, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, depression and anxiety, and addiction. Their circumstances often create homelessness and isolation from family.

Each of our Texas counties are charged with the responsibility of providing the deceased homeless citizens of our communities with a dignified cremation. Their remains are kept in the care and keeping by our county officials, funeral homes and mortuary's across our state. For the homeless, an extensive search for family is conducted by the county judges and their staff and then to notify their next of kin. Many of our indigent go unclaimed and their cremated remains are housed for many years and sometimes decades by our county officials, in hopes that family will come searching for them and claim their remains and personal effects.

In 2007 an organization of retired military veterans and family members formed an organization called MIAP (Missing in America Project). This group of patriots was organized to provide an honorary ceremony and burial for the lost and unclaimed free of charge for these veterans of our country. The entire efforts of finding, locating and providing these last acts of dignity are all through the efforts of volunteers across the country.

" These deceased veterans where real people, they had family, they lived lives, they were loved and cared for and they served our county honorably and fought wars to protect you and I in capacities that we only watch at the movies such as Saving Private Ryan or the resent film Hacksaw Ridge. "These veterans lived it, so we didn't have to", says Joel Carver of A to D Mortuary Service, and Panhandle MIAP rep. and volunteer.

In the efforts to find these lost veterans, Carver approached our local Potter Randall and surrounding county Judges and gained their approval to research the information necessary on each unclaimed name, which includes their vital statistics, next of kin notification and then contacting our representatives at the Veterans affairs offices in both St. Louis, MO and Arlington, VA for further research of military verification. For these four veterans, this effort has extended to more than 10 months of research by many volunteers across the county including our own County Judge Nancy Tanner of Potter Co. and her staff, who will be speaking at the ceremony in San Antonio.

On April 18th Tuesday afternoon at 1pm members of the local Amarillo American Legion, VFW Honor guard forming a collective group called Volleys for Veterans will be giving an honorary salute to these veterans at the steps of the Potter county courthouse, public is invited to attend. Early Thursday morning the Patriot Guard will assemble to escort the remains of these veterans to Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. The morning of April 21st at 10am a funeral coach donated by Sunset Funeral Home and the Patriot Guard motorcade will escort these remains to the National Cemetery were the McArthor High School ROTC Cadets will place the veteran cremains on the brier at the Assembly Hall. There is one Navy, one Army and two Air Force from the Vietnam War. 100 - 200 people are expected to attend these services. Each of their names will be called, there will be a volley of rifle fire and taps will be played. Each branch of the military will fold the American flag in honor of the four branches of service and four folded flags will be represented of each veteran. There will be 3 guest speakers including Judge Tanner and one Clergyman speaking at the service.

Why so many are anticipated to attend and why go to such lengths to do this for these fallen, lost and forgotten veterans, no one really knew? As Joyce Earnest, San Antonio MIAP representative said in a recent interview, "The living veterans of our area knows what it means to serve our country and many have pledged that no homeless, lost or forgotten Veteran will not or should not be buried alone,…. Because, it's the right thing to do."

(Press Release from County Judge Nancy Tanner and  Mental Health Coordinator Michelle Jordan)

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