‘We are now family’: Dixon Cemetery puts an end to unclaimed veteran stories


DIXON, Calif. (KTXL) — Veterans with no known family finally got the recognition they deserve at a ceremony hosted by a Dixon cemetery.

“This ceremony is to honor veterans who have come here and never earned their military honors,” said Arlene Salvador, program support assistant at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery.

Veterans have no family, no one to claim them and no one to be there to bid them a final farewell.

But everything changes at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, with a final ceremony to honor each veteran and all they represent.

“We are family now, basically,” Salvador said.

Steven Bowne, a member of the American Legion in Healdsburg, accepted the funeral flag for these veterans at the Unaccompanied Veterans Ceremony.

“It’s heartbreaking to me that these veterans don’t have family,” Bowne told FOX40.

This emotion is something Ron Collier knows very well as a volunteer for the Project disappeared in America. The organization identifies the remains of unclaimed veterans and brings them to a national cemetery.

“I had three veterans today that I found in Sonoma County that I brought here in July 2020, and they received their military honors today,” Collier said.

For the three veterans, these honors were long overdue.

“They had been sitting on the shelves for about 20 years,” Collier said. “No one had claimed them and I claim them. I become their last family.

Even though many veterans may be unaccompanied, their headstones show that there is a person behind every name, with a story and, perhaps, a family that has never been closed.

“We’ve had people show up and say, ‘He’s my uncle. I didn’t know my uncle was buried here,” Salvador said.

That’s part of the reason why ceremonies like this take place at the cemetery – so families can reunite one last time.

“It’s very comforting to know that they found someone who was probably lost,” Salvador said.

And while reunions don’t happen often, in the end, it’s all about giving this veteran peace.

“It’s to help our veterans find a final resting place,” Salvador said.

Anyone can search for a loved one through the Veterans National Cemetery Administration. Click or tap here for more information.


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