On April 19, 2019, a significant act of honor and compassion took place in Roseburg. Twenty-eight unclaimed and forgotten veteran ashes (known as cremains) were transferred from a local mortuary with the assistance of the Douglas County Veterans Forum to the custody of Douglas County Veterans Service Officer Mary Newman-Keyes.
Some of the cremains had been stashed away, hidden in obscure locations unknown and forgotten, some for as long as forty years. Four are World War I veterans. Many are World War II, Vietnam and Korean War Veterans.
This transfer was the result of a series of a search and find effort over two years by Carol Hunt, President of the Douglas County Wings of Love and DCVF Board member, and Glenda Shannon, past Cemetery Technician at the Roseburg National VA Cemetery.
The transfer on April 19 was completed by VSO Mary Newman-Keyes; DCVF President and Commander of Roseburg American Legion Post 16 Larry Hill; and Board Members; with the assistance of Oregon Army National Guard, Charlie Company soldiers; flag line by Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 805; Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2468 Honor Guard personnel; Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman; Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin and his deputies; Roseburg Chief of Police Captain Gary Klopfenstein; Air Force Veteran John Pierson, President of Pipes of Honor; Executive Secretary Jennifer Roth, Douglas County Commissioner Board Assistant; Director Sean Fallon, Douglas County Information Technology Radio Communications; and Wilson’s Chapel of the Roses.
The acceptance and temporary storage at the courthouse made national news. Associated press reported that it was the number one story picked up by media outlets for over a week.
Services for these honorable veterans at the VA National Roseburg Cemetery Annex are scheduled for Tuesday, May 14, Wednesday May 15 and Thursday, May 16; all services begin at 1 p.m.
Memorial services will include a flag line, accompaniment by the Patriot Guard, singing of the National Anthem, prayers by VA Roseburg Healthcare Chaplain Dewayne Brown and Chaplains of various veteran groups, eulogies, reading of obituaries, Bell ringing ceremony by the American Women Veterans of America, VVA Chapter 805 Honor Guard and VFW Honor Guard program, rifle salutes, flag folding, playing of taps and presentations by appropriate honor guard military personnel, Amazing Grace played by bag piper John Pierson and finally inurnment in the VA National Roseburg Cemetery Columbium.
The transfer of the veteran cremains would never have taken place except for the assistance and involvement of Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs Director Kelly Fitzpatrick.
Planning for the services are on-going, with assistance from Roseburg VA Cemetery Technician Dan Carver and his crew, and Mr. Gary Coelyn who made three beautiful walnut wooden trays for carrying and storage of the cremains.
Douglas County Fairgrounds Director Dan Hults graciously donated a RV spot and horse stall for the “the Last Ride” organization who will be used for the first service. It can be said that this is not only a veteran community effort, but an effort by all of Douglas County citizens.
For these 28 veterans, the veteran’s community has become their family and loved ones. A military creed that is held by all branches of the military is “no one left behind.” We are determined that all veterans earned and deserve the thanks, military honors and recognition for the honorable service they completed during life and a place of rest among their brother and sister veterans.
In other communities across our nation, when forgotten veteran were discovered the services were attended by thousands. We feel Roseburg can do likewise. Everyone is invited and encouraged to one or all services. The first service will include representatives from elected officials and dignitaries, some from Washington, D.C. and will include a horse drawn caisson.
Societies are judged on how they treat the dead. The day America ceases to recognize and honor those who serve and defend her will be the day that America ceases to exist. Please try to take time to attend one or all the three services. I look forward to seeing you. Thank you and may God Bless America.
For further information contact DCVF President Larry Hill at: (H) 541-673-5668, (C) 541-530-2435; DCVF Past President Jim Little at 541-672-4635; or Carol Hunt, President of the Douglas County Wings of Love at 503-504-8198.