Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
When Japan surrendered to end World War II on September 2, 1945, United States Merchant Marine Charles Montanaro was on a ship anchored off of Iwo Jima that was loaded with ammunition ready to go to Japan.
Seventy-two years and 20 days later, with help from Tom Draughon of the Nevada Veterans Coalition, Montanaro lifted a custom made wooden urn containing the remains of fellow mariner Knox Moore into a vault on the wall that overlooks the cemetery. Montanaro offered a solemn salute, then stood back, where he was comforted by a couple of companions, before again stepping forward to offer some final private words for Moore.
Moore was one of 27 unclaimed veterans who were honored with a full military funeral by the Nevada Veterans Coalition as part of the nationwide Missing in America Project.
“All of those guys today were forgotten,” Montanaro said.
Montanaro, 96, of Carson City, is one of about 2,000 Merchant Marines still alive out of the 250,000 or so who served during World War II, and one of only four who live in Nevada.
So when he saw the name of one of his comrades on the list of 27 veterans whose remains had been unclaimed, he wanted to be the one to lay his comrade to rest.
Nevada Veterans Coalition president Brett Palmer said the 27 servicemen honored this year were just some of the 147 the coalition has identified and is in the process of claiming so they can be buried at the cemetery. The remains have never been claimed by family members, and in many cases, have been on shelves in a mortuary for decades.
Moore, who served in the Merchant Marines from 1942-45, died in 1989.
Palmer said the Veterans Coalition works with mortuaries throughout the state to identify the remains of veterans, then they have to go through a process to verify their service. The website Ancestry.com has donated a subscription to the coalition to help with that process, then once the remains of a veteran are identified, the coalition has to go through proper channels through the Nevada Department of Veterans Services to get custody of the remains,
“With a combination of everybody, it takes about six weeks from the time we first read the name and get everything through the process and the burial permit,” Palmer said.
This year’s service began with a procession from the Alamo Truck Stop in Sparks into Fernley on Interstate 80. The procession then went down Main St., where residents waving miniature U.S. flags lined the street, before heading to the cemetery for the service.
An honor guard of sailors from Naval Air Station Fallon, soldiers from the Nevada National Guard and members of the Nevada Veterans Coalition carried the urns to a table to begin the service.
Kat Miller, the director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, told the life story of Charles Beckerman, a World War II veteran who was born in Germany and came to the United States in 1899 with his parents, then fought in World War I as a member of the U.S. Navy.
After the war, Miller said, Beckerman settled in Las Vegas and worked as an ironworker, later working in Saudi Arabia before settling in Reno. Beckerman died in 1984 at the age of 87, and despite having lived a full and productive life with many friends and family, had no family left when he died. Beckerman’s remains sat on a shelf until they were claimed by the Veterans Coalition.
“Some of us will outlive the ones we love,” Miller said.
Palmer said that’s the reason the Missing in America Project means so much to him and the members of the Nevada Veterans Coaliton.
“The nation made them a promise, many years ago when they joined up, we promised that if you pass away we will give you a proper burial,” Palmer said. “Well they pass away and they never get that, and it’s like they’re hovering up here saying hey, something’s not done yet.”
The list of servicemen honored in this year’s ceremony is:
- Charles Beckerman (1896-1984) served in the US Navy 1918 – 1918 WWI
- Gerald Gillingham (1900-1990) served in the US Army 1918 – 1918 WWI
- Edward Gerval (1915-1990) served in the US Navy 1945 – 1945 WWII
- Joseph Bosse (1917-1988) served in the US Army 1941 – 1945 WWII
- William Degliantoni (1919-1990) served in the US Navy 1940 – 1945 WWII
- William Guthrie (1925-1990) served in the US Navy 1943 – 1946 WWII
- Arturo Hayes (1922-1983) served in the US Marine Corp 1944 – 1946 WWII
- Webster Johnson (1911-1988) served in the US Navy 1942 – 1946 WWII
- Bernard Koolpe (1914-1988) served in the US Army 1940 – 1945 WWII
- Richard Long (1921-1988) served in the US Army 1943 – 1950 WWII
- Sterling McPherson (1921-1990) served in the US Army 1945 – 1947 WWII
- Knox Moore (1921-1989) served in the US Merchant Marines 1942 – 1945 WWII
- Eddie Robbins (1923-1988) served in the US Army 1945 – 1947 WWII
- Andrew Sealock (1920-1990) served in the US Army 1943 – 1946 WWII
- Earl Spaulding (1921-1989) served in the US Navy 1943 – 1945 WWII
- Lorenzo Thompson (1913-1988) served in the US Army 1942 – 1945 WWII
- Heinrich Ulrich Jr (1907-1989) served in the US Navy 1943 – 1945 WWII
- James White (1915-1989) served in the US Army 1943 – 1946 WWII
- James Wilson (1920-1988) served in the US Army 1944 – 1946 WWII
- James Adams (1924-1989) served in the US Navy 1944 – 1952 WWII/Korea
- Edward Alexander (1921-1989) served in the US Navy 1941 – 1952 WWII/Korea
- Lyle LaMere (1923-1989) served in the US Air Force 1942 – 1963 WWII/Korea
- Devier Tozer (1925-1989) served in the US Navy 1943 – 1950 WWII/Korea
- Terry Fausch (1934-1983) served in the US Air Force 1951 – 1955 Korea
- Patrick Ingram (1936-1985) served in the US Army 1954 – 1957 Korea
- Charles Roe (1921-1990) served in the US Navy 1941 – 1946/1969 – 1974 WWII/Vietnam
- Ronald Bowser (1947-1984) served in the US Army 1965 – 1976 Vietnam