‘We are now the family’: Dixon cemetery brings closure to unclaimed veterans’ stories

Veterans Voices

DIXON, Calif. (KTXL) — Veterans with no known family finally got the recognition they deserve at a ceremony hosted by a Dixon cemetery.

“This ceremony is to honor those veterans that came here that never got their military honors,” explained Arlene Salvador, the program support assistant at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery.

The veterans have no family, no one to claim them and no one to be there to say a final goodbye.

But that all changes at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, with one last ceremony to honor each veteran and all they stood for.

“We are now the family, basically,” Salvador said.

Steven Bowne, a member of the American Legion out of Healdsburg, accepted the burial flag for these veterans at the Unaccompanied Veterans Ceremony.

“It’s emotional to me that these veterans don’t have families,” Bowne told FOX40.

That emotion is something Ron Collier is very familiar with as a volunteer for the Missing in America Project. The organization identifies the remains of unclaimed veterans and brings them to a national cemetery.

“I had three veterans today that I found in Sonoma County that I brought over here in July of ’20, and they were given their military honors today,” Collier said.

For the three veterans, these honors have been waiting for them for a long time.

“They had been sitting on the shelves for about 20 years,” Collier said. “Nobody had claimed them and I claim them. I become their last family.”

Even though many of the veterans may be unaccompanied, their headstones show there’s a person behind each name, with a story and, possibly, a family that never got any closure.

“We have had people come forward and say, ‘That’s my uncle. I had no idea my uncle was buried here,’” Salvador said.

That’s part of the reason ceremonies like this are held at the cemetery — for families to get one last reunion.

“It’s very heartwarming to know that they found someone that probably was lost,” Salvador said.

And while reunions may not happen often, ultimately, it’s about giving that veteran peace.

“It’s to help our veterans to find a final resting place,” Salvador said.

Anyone is able to search for a loved one through the Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration. Click or tap here for more information.

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