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Remains of 26 unclaimed vets receive proper burial in Cecil cemetary

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - While saluting police officers, soldiers and veterans salute, a soldier is handed the remains of an unclaimed veteran from a hearse as another is presented with a U.S. flag during a ceremony at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014. Twenty-six unclaimed veterans, representing all branches except the Coast Guard, were buried with military honors. The veterans were identified as part of The Missing in America Project, a national program, that identifies veteran remains.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>While saluting police officers, soldiers and veterans salute, a soldier is handed the remains of an unclaimed veteran from a hearse as another is presented with a U.S. flag during a ceremony at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.  Twenty-six unclaimed veterans, representing all branches except the Coast Guard, were buried with military honors.  The veterans were identified as part of The Missing in America Project, a national program, that identifies veteran remains.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Carl Mochak of Sarver, a chaplain with VFW Post 5758 in Tarentum, stands near a hearse with the remains of 26 unclaimed veterans at the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary in East Liberty on Thursday May 15, 2014. The remains were taken in a procession from the institute to the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil where they were given a military burial.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Carl Mochak of Sarver, a chaplain with VFW Post 5758 in Tarentum, stands near a hearse with the remains of 26 unclaimed veterans at the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary in East Liberty on Thursday May 15, 2014.  The remains were taken in a procession from the institute to the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil where they were given a military burial.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Soldiers and veterans salute at the hearse carrying the remains of 26 unclaimed veteran passes during a ceremony at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014. The veterans were identified as part of The Missing in America Project, a national program, that identifies veteran remains.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Soldiers and veterans salute at the hearse carrying the remains of 26 unclaimed veteran passes during a ceremony at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.  The veterans were identified as part of The Missing in America Project, a national program, that identifies veteran remains.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A soldier salutes in front of 26 urns and folded flags during a military burial ceremony for the unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday, May 15, 2014. The 26 unclaimed veterans, representing all branches except the Coast Guard, were buried with military honors. The veterans were identified as part of The Missing in America Project, a national program, that identifies veteran remains.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A soldier salutes in front of 26 urns and folded flags during a military burial ceremony for the unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday, May 15, 2014.  The 26 unclaimed veterans, representing all branches except the Coast Guard, were buried with military honors. The veterans were identified as part of The Missing in America Project, a national program, that identifies veteran remains.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Veterans, soldiers and mourners salute and watch on during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday, May 15, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Veterans, soldiers and mourners salute and watch on during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday, May 15, 2014.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Leonard Cole, 65, a veteran of the United States Marine Corp who served during Vietnam, stands with an American flag as part of the Patriot Guard Riders at the burial of 26 unclaimed veterans who were buried with military honors at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Leonard Cole, 65, a veteran of the United States Marine Corp who served during Vietnam, stands with an American flag as part of the Patriot Guard Riders at the burial of 26 unclaimed veterans who were buried with military honors at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Buglers play taps during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Buglers play taps during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A soldier carries the remains of a veteran during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A soldier carries the remains of a veteran during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Chuck Magnus, 83, of Crafton, center, a veteran of the U.S. Army, watches on during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Chuck Magnus, 83, of Crafton, center, a veteran of the U.S. Army, watches on during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Carole Scagline of Elizabeth is presented a folded flag by Lt. Col. Greg Toth during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014. Scagline's uncle, Michael Myor, a veteran of WWII, passed away in April 2005.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Carole Scagline of Elizabeth is presented a folded flag by Lt. Col. Greg Toth during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.  Scagline's uncle, Michael Myor, a veteran of WWII, passed away in April 2005.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A member of the honor guard holds an American flag during a burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A member of the honor guard holds an American flag during a burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Soldiers and veterans watch on during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Soldiers and veterans watch on during a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil on Thursday May 15, 2014.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Tony Banks of Aliquippa, a retired police officer and veteran of the Air Force, walks through the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies as he attends a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran in Cecil on Thursday, May 15, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Tony Banks of Aliquippa, a retired police officer and veteran of the Air Force, walks through the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies as he attends a military burial ceremony for 26 unclaimed veteran in Cecil on Thursday, May 15, 2014.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014, 10:30 p.m.
 

For four years, their remains sat unclaimed, awaiting mass burial.

On Thursday, a team of volunteers buried 26 veterans with military honors in the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil.

“We have some veterans that have passed that are finally getting the proper send-off that they should have gotten a long time ago. To stand there looking at those urns just brings tears to my eyes,” said Carl Mochak, 67, a Vietnam veteran and chaplain for VFW Post 5758 in Tarentum.

About 250 unclaimed bodies had been under the care of the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office, but John Fabry, Pennsylvania coordinator of the Missing in America Project, suspected that some were veterans entitled to military funerals.

“Once you find an individual is a veteran, you feel bad,” Fabry told the Trib last week. “Here's a person who served his country, and now nobody wants to give him a proper burial.”

The Missing in America Project says on its website that it has visited 1,560 funeral homes, identified the cremated remains of 2,144 people as those of veterans and buried 1,882 of them.

The ceremony on Thursday started with a procession leaving the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science on Baum Boulevard in East Liberty. It reached the national military cemetery about an hour later.

The veterans represented all branches of the military except the Coast Guard. Most died after 2010.

“In retrospect, it's a sad day, of course, for many of the family members, but it's also the job that we do,” said Bill McClements, 68, of Murrysville, a member of the funeral detail representing the Three Rivers Leatherneck Detachment of the Marine Corps League.

“Leave no man behind, or woman,” said Steve Hloznik, 68, of Tarentum, memorial unit chairman for the Tarentum VFW post.

Trib Total Media staff photographer Stephanie Strasburg contributed to this report.

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