Veterans organization

Statewide veterans organization honors 4 homeless and unclaimed veterans

“We will be their family for the day,” some community members said during the ceremony.

Knoxville, Tenn. – The Department of Veterans Affairs says there are between 10,000 and 50,000 unclaimed remains of veterans across the country.

That reality was revealed Thursday afternoon at the East Tennessee Veterans’ Cemetery, as the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veteran Burial program urged the public to bury four more.

Nearly 100 people came to pay their respects, including Steve Wessing and his sons, Lincoln and Jackson.

“It’s really important for us to be able to spend time honoring those we love,” Steve said.

He admitted that he and his sons did not know any of the four men buried. However, they appreciate the sacrifice these men have made for our freedom.

“We just thought it was a way to show honor and respect to the fallen men and women and know they didn’t have a family opportunity,” Steve said. “We thought well, we will be their family for the day.”

Steve said his two sons grew up hearing stories from their grandfather, who was in the military. Steve said they always say “Thank you” to service members for their service.

“My two boys said they would like to serve too,” Steve said.

Lincoln told 10News how he became interested in joining the Air Force.

“I want to serve my country. And my dad thinks I should go to the Air Force because it’s very close to here. And I like airplanes too,” Lincoln said.

He went on to say that the new Top Gun movie sparked his interest in becoming a pilot.

The two boys watched the ceremony unfold. Mayor Glenn Jacobs began with an opening speech on patriotism.

“Over the past 246 years, millions of people have sacrificed, sometimes their lives, to keep and protect the dream, that is, America. Many of their names are also lost to history. We We are here today to honor these veterans, to make sure their names are heard and remembered, but we must also remember that we can never forget the sacrifices made by men and women,” said Jacobs.

Dr. Pat Paulus, President of Capt. Bill Robinson, Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1078, followed with a prayer and an oath to never forget the unclaimed.

“No veteran, no veteran should ever be buried alone,” Paulus said. “So we gather here as an extended family, because they carry our name, and we carry their veteran. While we may not know them personally, we don’t know if they had any old wounds like many of us, or struggled with the ghost of combat that still haunts many of us too. But since they were veterans, we know for sure. They were followers.

The speeches were followed by a prayer, ceremonial folding of the flag and three gunshots for duty, honor and sacrifice. Lincoln didn’t think about his favorite part.

“My favorite part was probably when they fired the guns, I didn’t expect that,” he said.

However, her father felt something even more special.

“We claim them as part of our family. It really is like that and it meant a lot to say, we claim them,” Steve said.

To prove to his sons that the military family can flow as deep as blood.

The four unclaimed veterans’ urns were buried next to each other in the cemetery.