On Veterans Day, we thank and honor ALL men and women, present or past, living or dead, for their service in the United States military. We all largely assume that when a veteran passes, their family will help ensure and provide for a dignified military funeral honors ceremony. But what if the veteran does not have any known family? Such is the case for Mr. Billy C. Aldridge, a United States Marine Corp Veteran, who passed away at the age of 80 in an Indianapolis nursing home on October 14, 2015.
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Helping Our Heroes
Unable to find records of any family, the nursing home asked the local funeral home, Legacy Cremation and Funeral Services – Lawrence to handle the burial ceremony. Working together with Private Label Caskets, Memorial Park Cemetery, and Indianapolis Police Escort, Mr. Aldridge will be honored with a funeral service and then laid to rest at the Memorial Park Cemetery today, November 17th, 2015. The eulogy will be delivered by Birg. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin, Executive Director of Indiana War Memorials and the Indy Metropolitan Honor Guard will provide military honors.
On their Facebook page, Legacy Cremation and Funeral Services posted information about the service and encouraged the public, especially veterans, to attend and pay their respects to Mr. Aldridge. They write: “In keeping with our company mission, giving this veteran who faithfully served his country a proper burial with military honors is the right thing to do.”
While the identity of Mr. Aldridge was known, another group called the Missing in America Project, seeks to locate, identify, and inter the unclaimed remains of American veterans. Their mission is “to provide honor and respect to those who have served this country by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes.” This mission is executed through the combined, joint efforts of members of the American Legion, other volunteer service and veteran organizations, local Funeral Homes, State Funeral Commissions, State and National Veterans Administration Agencies, and the State and National Veterans Cemetery Administrations.
According to their website, the impetus for this project began in November 2006 when the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery interred 21 cremains of forgotten veterans, with full military honors. To date, the Missing in America Project has visited 1,940 funeral homes; found 12,367 cremains; identified 2,823 veterans cremains; and interred 2,567 veterans!
To learn more about the Missing in America Project, please visit their website. You might also consider making a tax deductible donation in honor of our veterans to their Bury A Hero fund. This fund is used to purchase burial permits and urns when needed, registered letters to the last known next of kin or notifications in local newspapers, and transportation to their final resting place.
Update: After news of Mr. Aldridge’s story went viral online and on social media, over 1,000 well-wishers turned out for the funeral. Read more about this heartwarming story.