The United States is taking today to honor its veterans. But one California group is working year-round to make sure no vet is forgotten.
Fred Salanti is a Vietnam Vet. And he says he did some things in war he’s not proud of. To make up for some of that he founded the Missing in America Project. The group locates, identifies and inters the unclaimed cremated remains of US veterans.
Salanti and his group visit funeral homes and research names in an effort to give vets a proper burial. He says attending a ceremony in a veterans’ cemetery is a good way to mark the day.
"But what about the ones that aren’t there? What about the ones that are still on a shelf? And I’m talking a shelf or a crypt with spiders webs," he says. "You cannot believe some of the places that we go into."
Salanti says the dead were sometimes homeless or estranged from their families. Sometimes relatives couldn't afford the cost of a burial. The numbers kept growing and Salanti had to expand his group to keep up with demand. He gets thousands of leads from the East Coast and Midwest but has had less luck identifying people in California.
"But if we got into the big cities and some of the big funeral homes and in some of the areas like Watts, we’re going to find the same thousands and thousands that are there," he says.
Salanti says California has laws regarding the identification and burial of vets, but they aren’t always followed.