Indiana veterans to get proper military honors after remains went unclaimed for decades

Marion National Cemetery
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On Saturday, Indiana will give full military honors to three war veterans who died decades ago. The Hoosier heroes will finally be laid to rest after their remains were found unclaimed - almost forgotten - in the storage vaults of a funeral home.

Private Hiram Maine fought in the Civil War. Fifty years later, Private Forrest Smith became a veteran of World War One. Leo Valdez earned his corporal stripes in World War Two.

Decades later, all three will finally receive the honors and burials they deserve.

"I see somebody that didn't have their obligation fulfilled to them, it's for many different reasons, many kinds of circumstances; who knows why they were left there?" said Army veteran Bart Colvin, who runs Indiana's Missing in America program.

"When you raise your hand to swear your allegiance to this country and serve in their military, that's really the only guarantee you have - a proper burial. They didn't even get that," said Colvin.

The Indiana veterans will be laid to rest in the Marion National Cemetery, alongside thousands of other veterans and their spouses.

Volunteers with the Missing in America project ask cemeteries and funeral homes to look over their records of unclaimed remains. They go through the lists and take on the arduous task of finding veterans among those names.

Last year, Colvin and other volunteers sorted through 400 unclaimed remains stored in a vault of the Indianapolis Floral Park Cemetery. He said tears were shed that day.

Two Civil War veterans, the McCormick brothers, were buried in Arlington Cemetery. On Saturday, Maine, Smith and Valdez will receive their full military honors while the community watches.

"It's the satisfaction - knowing that the journey is finally over for them. Knowing that they're finally getting what they worked and sacrificed for," said Colvin.

The project managed to locate Leo Valdez's children. They will be a part of the services Saturday at Marion National Cemetery, which takes place at 10:00 am.