Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
When legislation was passed in 2011 and 2013 mandating funeral directors to report unclaimed remains of veterans to the Department of Veterans Services, it also gave funeral homes the authority to release those remains to someone other than the family members.
The Nevada Veterans Coalition Friday afternoon conducted its 12th mission of the Missing In Nevada project, to give proper services to 17 veterans whose remains have been unclaimed for many years.
“These 17 individuals that we have here are veterans and have been forgotten, some for decades, which, for me is so sad because I think that our country has been founded, liberated, and saved by veterans,” Nevada Veterans Coalition spokesman, chaplain and master of ceremonies Tom Draughon said. “We are the only family they have right now. And we will never, ever forget them.”
Jennifer Kandt, executive director of the Nevada Funeral and Cemetery Services Board, said identifying all of those remains met with some resistance, because of the massive undertaking of going through storage units containing thousands of cremated remains.
But she said that resistance made her think of how important the project is. She talked of family members through several generations who served and fought.
“I think about these people that I love, and I just hope and pray there would never be any day when they would be forgotten in a funeral home,” Kandt said. “I think it’s such a blessing to have so many people in this project who do care, who want to make sure that these brave men and women receive the honors they are entitled to, and that they’re properly laid to rest.”
Draughon read the names and dates of service of each of the 17 veterans being honored, from Louis Dufour, the oldest of the 17, who was born in 1890 and died at the age of 96 in 1987, to John Herb, who died in 1983 and was unclaimed for 35 years. Twelve of the 17 veterans honored had died in the 1980s, and had no family claim their remains.
“Today we’re here to give these veterans their final close to life that we all deserve,” Draughon said. “Today no matter their enlistment, they all earned the title of veteran, hero, and lover of country.”
Patty Cafferatta, special assistant to Attorney General Adam Laxalt, received a folded flag from members of the Veterans Coalition honor guard.
“I believe we are being watched by the spirits of the 17 heroes we bring home today,” said Amy Garland executive officer with Nevada Department of Veterans Services, speaking on behalf of NDVS director Kat Miller. “They are watching in gratitude as they are laid to rest today with dignity and honor.”
The 17 veterans honored were:
- Robert Blacketer (1926-2009) Served in the U.S. Navy 8 Nov 1943-15 Apr 1946 WWII/Korea
- Hubert Burke (1951-1987) served in the U.S. Navy 25 Sep 1969-24 Sep 1973 Vietnam
- George Coffield (1923-1984) served in the U.S. Army 20 Mar 1943-18 Jan 1947 WWII
- Carlos Coons (1918-1984) served in the U.S. Army 5 Feb 1942-28 Sep 1945 WWII
- Myrl Crowe (1923-1986) served in the U.S. Navy 22 May 1944-30 Jun 1947 WWII
- Gerald Cupp (1929-2006) Served in the U.S. Navy 31 Jan 1947- 18 Jun 1947
- Lester Davidson (1920-1986) served in the U.S. Army 24 Oct 1939-02 Oct 1945 WWII
- George Deringer (1920-1987) served in the U.S. Army /U.S. Air Force 13 Nov 1941-12 Aug 1960 WWII/Korea
- Louis Dufour (1890-1987) served in the U.S. Army 12 Sept 1918-10 Jan 1919 WWI
- Paul Erickson (1919-1986) served in the U.S. Army 05 Dec 1941-15 Nov 1945 WWII
- Norman Fannin (1934-1987) served in the U.S. Navy 21 May 1952-14 Feb 1955 Korea
- Joseph Fields (1916-1986) served in the U.S. Army 10 May 1943-05 Dec 1945 WWII
- John Francis (1925-1986) served in the U.S. Navy 27 Jan 1945-16 May 1946 WWII
- Larry French (1921-1996) Served in the U.S. Army 12 Sep 1942-5 Feb 1946 WWII
- John Herb (1918-1983) served in the U.S. Navy 28 Feb 1942-30 Jun 1963 WWII/Korea
- Gerald Murdock (1938-2004) Served in the U.S. Navy 5 Oct 1956-11 Dec 1964 Vietnam
- Steven Turadek (1956-2006) Served in the U.S. Army 18 May 1976-17 May 1979