No veteran will be forgotten was the message Friday at a military funeral ceremony for four veterans whose cremated remains had been unclaimed at Connecticut funeral homes for decades.
The Connecticut State Department of Veterans Affairs and the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association, Inc. coordinated the military funeral at the State Veterans Cemetery in Rocky Hill for two veterans who served in the U.S. Army; one each who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy and for one civilian spouse.
“We bring these individuals here, to ensure they are forgotten no longer. That is our mission,” said Thomas Saadi, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, who led the ceremony. “We thank them for their sacrifice.”
This is the eighth such ceremony hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs in coordination with the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association since 2009. In that year Connecticut established new protocols to identify unclaimed cremated remains of honorably discharged U.S. veterans in Connecticut funeral homes with the goal of providing them a dignified burial with full military honors.
The solemn remembrance ceremony included the Connecticut State Police and the Connecticut Patriot Guard Riders escorting three CFDA hearses containing the cremains from the DVA Rocky Hill Campus to the Veterans Cemetery in Middletown.
The honored veterans served in some of the nation’s major conflicts including WWII and the Korean War. They were U.S. Marine Corps PFC Robert Benson, who served from 1951 to 1953 and died in 2008 in New Haven; U.S. Army CPL Loren Milton Cubbison, Jr., who served from 1953 to 1955 and died in 2021 in New Haven; U.S. Army CPT David L. Groher, who served from 1943 to 1946 and died in 2008 in Bridgeport; and U.S. Navy RD3 Morris Meyer, who served from 1944 to 1946, and died in 2004 in Bridgeport, and his civilian wife Cornelia Meyer, who died in 2003.
In total more than 35 veterans unclaimed remains have been given a military honor since 2009 through the partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association.
“The most important thing to remember about the project is that some people think these ceremonies are for people who died alone. They think no one was with them and that they were forgotten,” said Laura Soll, communications director for CFDA. “That is not what this is about. It’s not unusual for a funeral home to have one or two unclaimed cremains sit for a period of time. It can be that someone dies in the winter and a family asks to put the cremains on hold for a while when it gets warmer. It can also be a remaining spouse dies or even a family that is still not sure what to do with the remains and asks to keep them on hold. These veterans were not forgotten.”
There has been an increase in requests over the last few years as the program has received more attention both nationally and across the state.
“Now that funeral directors are really cognizant of this program we have had more requests over the last few years,” said David MacDonald, president of the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association. “It is time consuming to find the necessary paperwork to ensure eligibility and make sure there is no next of kin. That can take several months or even over a year. But the effort is worth it to give these heroes a very dignified service that they deserve.”
The veterans’ ashes will be laid to rest in a columbarium that will house the urns and display a veteran plaque to honor their service to their country.
Veterans from around the state were on hand as the ashes of the men were laid to rest with honor.
“It’s quite a tribute to have this special ceremony for these heroes to make sure they are not forgotten,” said MacDonald. “It’s very moving for everyone involved.”
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