In Depth: Help for Unclaimed Ashes of Veterans

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A small Nebraska volunteer group is asking state senators to help give veterans a proper military burial.

The images are powerful ones when a veteran dies; the American flag, a 21 gun salute and the playing of taps.

But hundreds of veterans who have died and were cremated -- remain on the shelves of Nebraska funeral homes.

Since 2013, the Nebraska Missing in America Project has found 29 veterans in funeral homes in two years. Their ashes were placed in decorative patriotic urns, followed by a full military escort and funeral.

But many funeral homes have been resistant to let the organization in.

"The funeral home's main objection and worry is the fear of lawsuits," said Bill Henry, one of the founders of Nebraska's chapter.

He told the legislative committee that some funeral homes think that if they give up control of the remains -- and a family member shows up years later -- they'll get sued. So the urns remains on their shelves collecting dust.

"They're not allowed to be buried -- they're not allowed to be scattered," said State Senator Sue Crawford of Bellevue who introduced legislation that would shift liability to the volunteer organization -- and away from the funeral homes.

If it becomes state law, volunteers believe there are more than 200 veterans who have died -- been cremated -- and would now be honored by the military they served in a national cemetery.

"We all remember when we enlisted," said Bill Henry during one of the funerals at Ft McPherson in Nebraska. "We gave the United States of America a blank check. It included a lot of things -- that could include our lives."

Henry believes this is perfect legislation -- a bill that asks for permission to help -- and doesn't want a dime from taxpayers.

LB 146 had no opposition at the hearing.



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