Ceremony Honors 169 Fallen Veterans without Families

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DIXON --

Strangers honored hundreds of veterans Wednesday in Dixon.

On a perfectly windy day, dozens of American flags flew high and proud. Strangers attended a special ceremony at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery to honor veterans from Northern California, whose bodies were never claimed by family or friends.

"Veterans that have somehow fell through the cracks, who were abandoned by next of kin," said Craig Allen, operations foreman of the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery.

The cemetery hosts this ceremony four times a year, most of time honoring about 40 service members.

But Wednesday, 169 people were laid to rest. Cemetery staff attributes the jump in numbers to the due diligence of the Missing in America Project, an organization that finds and verifies veterans with no families.

"They actively sought out these veterans that have somehow not been accorded the honors that they deserve," Allen said.

Students from Vacaville Christian Middle School were asked to honor each inductee. It is a tradition the school has done for years.

"What I hope they get out of it is that the life they have is at the cost of someone else's sacrifice," Vacaville Christian Middle School teacher Valerie Marchione said.

Many of the students said attending the ceremony meant so much more than just reading off names.

"I understand what it's like," student, Rachel Bode said. "My dad is in the military, he is stationed in Korea."

"It's kind of mind-blowing that this many people gave their lives willingly just for our freedom. And it means a lot," Abigail Jackson, Vacaville Christian Middle School student said. Her father is stationed at Travis Air Force Base.

Sonya Bonnett was given a flag to honor her late husband, Staff Sgt. Charles Bennett. He was a military policeman in the Vietnam War. She says she is lucky to have a family, and hopes to spread the military love in the future.

"I wish I can someday do the same and be a volunteer for other families," Bonnett said, assuring that while they may not be biological family, they will always have a military family.

The next quarterly ceremony will be held on April 13.

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