Twenty-eight veterans whose remains have waited unclaimed at Wilson’s Chapel of the Roses, some for as many as 44 years, arrived Friday in a silver hearse at the Douglas County Courthouse. They will be stored there until memorial services with full military honors can be held in mid-May.

Four of the men served in World War I, and 17 served in World War II. Four were born before 1900. Most died in the 1970s and 1980s.

On Friday morning at about 10:30 a.m., the hearse drove past a flag line organized by the Vietnam Veterans of America, and parked on the west side of the courthouse.

Douglas County Veterans Service Office Director Mary Newman-Keyes was there to officially take custody of the remains. Newman-Keyes has been designated as the next-of-kin for the veterans since they were never claimed by their own family members. Several other Douglas County officials, including Sheriff John Hanlin, were also in attendance.

A prayer was offered by past Douglas County Veterans Forum president Jim Little. Then uniformed members of Charlie Company lifted the remains out of the car in three large wooden boxes built by local carpenter Gary Coelyn, each box draped in an American flag. The remains were carried through a door on the west end of the courthouse one box at a time as veterans saluted and John Pearson played “Going Home” on the bagpipes.

Little and current Douglas County Veterans Forum President Larry Hill thanked those assembled for showing honor to the veterans, saying they had waited for it a long time.

On May 14, the four World War I veterans’ remains will be transported in a horse-drawn carriage to the Roseburg National Cemetery, where they will interred in the columbarium following a memorial ceremony at the cemetery annex. Two additional memorials will be held in May for the other veterans.

Roger Boucock, a Navy veteran with the Vietnam Veterans of America, held a flag in the flag line Friday. He told The News-Review right before the ceremony: “We’re here to honor all our veterans, and that’s my deepest feeling is to honor all veterans, present and past. So that’s why I’m here.”

Vietnam Veteran of America member and retired Army veteran Pete Reza said it was important to be there.

“I believe that it’s about time that veterans as ourselves do things for other veterans who have passed on before us, and that’s why basically we’re all here,” he said.

Hill told The News-Review on Friday he was excited the veterans were finally being moved out of the funeral home.

“I’m just thrilled that we’re able to do this, I really am,” he said.

He said it’s hard to describe how he feels knowing the veterans have been rescued after being forgotten for decades.

“It shouldn’t happen to anyone. It really should not. We should take care of our brothers and sisters and accord them the honors they’re due. We will, and hope that it never happens in Douglas County or the state of Oregon again,” he said.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

(1) comment

Rockyboy

Thank you for your service. Forgotten by family and country. But not in general.

And I also am reminded of the following in thinking we need also care for living veterans better:

Let us honour if we can
The vertical man
Though we value none
But the horizontal one.
- Eliot

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