Coalition has identified more than 350 military members since 2016
By Steve Ranson, Nevada Veterans Journal
FERNLEY — The haunting tones of twin bugles pierced the stillness of an August morning at Fernley’s Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley.
Buglers Mary Sedgwick and Rick Rose, both members of the Nevada Veterans Coalition, played Taps on Friday morning to honor 19 veterans who were given a military funeral.
The Missing in Nevada mission honors forgotten veterans whose remains may have been left on a mortuary shelf or in a dark, damp place. NVC Chaplain Sharon Serenko said their only family may have been the people who attended the one-hour ceremony to pay their final respects.
Serenko said Missing in Nevada has identified more than 350 forgotten veterans whose remains were interred either in Fernley or at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City.
“Our mission was and still is to find every lost and forgotten veterans abandoned on mortuary shelves here in Nevada,” Serenko said.
The first mission occurred in 2016, and the last one was conducted in 2019 before COVID closed the cemetery to large ceremonies. Serenko said no one claimed the remains, and she wondered how this may have affected the veterans if they were able to look down.
“We have brought them to be with their brothers and sisters veterans,” Serenko said of their final resting place in a beautiful cemetery at the edge of the Nevada desert. “We will remember and honored them as our brothers and sisters.”
Serenko recognized Linda Freeman, who has worked with local mortuaries to research the veterans’ identities, and Sedgwick, who handmade 19 urns for Friday’s service. Soldiers from the Nevada Army National Guard and fire fighters from the North Lyon Fire Department assisted with the carrying of urns to the columbarium wall.
The NVC invited Fernley Mayor Neal E. McIntyre to offer remarks. He expressed his gratitude to the men and women who wear the uniform and for their everyday sacrifices in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“This hallowed ground we stand on is representative of that,” McIntyre said. “Unfortunately, not every veteran who has served their country honorably will receive a full military honor they fully deserve.”
McIntyre said he respects the NVC’s mission. During the ceremony, the names of the 19 veterans were read, and the ceremony guard fired a volley of three. After a flag-folding ceremony, the NVC presented the flag to McIntyre.
The recognized veterans included Donald Deramus, Terrance Kaiser, Joseph Malumphy, Wesley Rubarth, Duyet Tran and Frank Weirauch, U.S. Air Force; John Awe, James Coggins, David McMurray, George Pope, Martin Salzer, Michael Sandmann, Jack Slate and William Wisckol, Army; Jack Martinez, Marine Corp; and George Abernathy, Walter Bindi, Robert Brewer and Joseph Letko, Navy.
Darin Farr, a spokesman with the NVC, said the service is a heartfelt sendoff conducted with dignity for the fallen veterans.
“We took it upon ourselves to tell veterans that they are our family,” he pointed out.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Susan Malone, who was sworn in as Nevada’s Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army on July 13, said she’s appreciative of the NVC for conducting this service.
“God bless the veterans, National Guard and people who came today to make sure the 19 veterans are remembered,” she said.
Malone added the interred veterans will have a special place in everyone’s hearts.
“It is a humbling moment for me,” she said.