Unclaimed veterans laid to rest, at last

Most military veterans who pass away get a proper burial from family and friends, but the remains of some deceased veterans can go unclaimed for years.

Grand Strand veterans groups chose to do something about that Thursday. Four veterans who died in Horry County, some of whom had gone unclaimed for years, were finally laid to rest.

The service was organized as part of the Missing in America Project that aims to give dignified burials to those veterans who were left behind after they died.

Motorcycle riders from the American Legion, Patriot Guard Riders and Rolling Thunder staged in Aynor, to provide an escort to the national cemetery in Florence.

The unclaimed veterans are:

Pvt. David Earl Newens, U.S. Marine Corps

MR3 Joseph Robert Oelech, U.S. Navy

PFC Aluster Lee Farmer, U.S. Marine Corps

Seaman Charles Bryce Carrick, U.S. Navy

Legion members say the veterans may have been homeless, estranged from their families or have no surviving family at all.

Those who attended the service were there not to pass judgement on the veterans' lives, but simply to honor their service in death.

"The individuals that we are privileged to have turned over to us, they served their country and we want to honor them and provide them with the proper treatment," said Legion member John Bianchi.

Bianchi says in South Carolina, the American Legion is the organization assigned to receive the remains of veterans who have gone unclaimed.

The Legion has been seeking out coroners and funeral homes around the state to find other deceased veterans who may have been forgotten by some, but worthy of honor by all.

"Just the satisfaction of knowing our brothers are not out there somewhere on the back shelf, stuck in a back room somewhere. They're actually where they belong, interred with their other brothers and sisters who represented this country so well," said Legion member Larry Truax.

Bianchi says a new state law had to be passed to allow this kind of funeral service, absolving any parties involved of liability and allowing unclaimed remains to pass to a designated veterans organization.

He says this was the second funeral service for unclaimed veterans from Horry County. One veteran was laid to rest last year.