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Ray Boone, Deseret News
Nineteen veterans whose remains are still unclaimed by any family were honored with a military funeral in Bluffdale on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, by the Missing in America Project. Three veterans whose remains have been reunited with their families were also honored during the ceremony.

BLUFFDALE — We all want to be surrounded by loved ones when our time on this planet is up.

It’s a comforting feeling.

However, sometimes, that’s not the case.

It’s maybe even a little tougher when a military veteran dies and doesn’t have any friends or family to claim the remains.

That's where the Missing in America Project comes in.

“Yeah, it’s pretty important,” said Roger Graves, the project's Utah chapter coordinator. “The least we can do is guarantee these veterans get their final honors."

The Missing in America Project's goal is to find the remains of veterans in mortuaries to properly bury them. Mortuaries often hold onto the cremated remains of people who aren’t claimed.

It takes a lot of research and time, but Graves says there is no better feeling than finding one.

“When you know you have a veteran who could have easily been forgotten, it means everything,” he said.

This year, Graves and his volunteers located 19 veterans across Utah.

"I believe our longest on-the-shelf veteran this year is 37 years,” he said.

The team also organized a full military funeral for them Saturday morning at the Utah Veterans Cemetery and Memorial Park.

One by one, each box and an American flag were taken out of a hearse and brought into a chapel, where the veterans' names were read. There was also a gun salute and a bugler playing taps.

“I'm glad the veterans aren't forgotten,” said Lori Irish, who traveled to Utah from Arizona to be a part of the ceremony.

Irish’s brother, William Edward Guessford, is a Vietnam Veteran who died last year. He and two other veterans were honored during the ceremony.

"I just think it's really good for the service they have done for our country,” Irish said.

There is also a section in the cemetery for the veterans with a headstone for each one with the words “Never Forgotten” chiseled in stone.

Including the veterans found this year, there are now 99 buried at the Bluffdale cemetery.

"I can't explain how good it feels to finally be able to bring that person back into the family,” Graves said. "We've got a long way to go, but we'll get there."

* * *

Utah veterans honored Saturday by the Missing in America Project

• Michael Ray Carbuhn, 1945-2016: Army, 1973-77, 1977-80, 1981-88, Vietnam War

• Clifford Andrew Christiansen, 1927-2005: Army, 1946-47, World War II

• Robert Randolph Coons, 1951-2016: Marine Corps, 1972-74, Vietnam War

• Ronald Edward Craig, 1946-2007: Army, 1963-64

• Willard Thurlow Douglas, 1907-1980: Army Reserves, 1942-46, World War II

• Joel P. Driver Jr., 1927-2016: Navy, 1944-46, World War II

• Albert Carl Elkins, 1913-2002: Army, 1943, World War II

• William Edward Guessford, 1946-2016*: Army, 1967-69, Vietnam War

• Alfonso Gutierrez, 1918-2007: Army, 1942-43, World War II

• William Howard Guy, 1943-2017*: Army, 1967-69, Vietnam War

• Kenneth Edward Kirk, 1945-2004: Army, 1962-63

• Robert Ray Milford, 1929-2004: Army, 1950-52, Korean War

• Barry Dee Montgomery, 1942-2013: Army, 1959-61, Korean War

• Elmer A. Montgomery, 1917-1988: Army, 1946-48, World War II

• William Alan Nash, 1934-2016: Army, 1954-56, Korean War

• Clayton Nourse, 1916-2001: Army Air Corps, 1943-46, World War II

• Robert Morris Parker Jr., 1946-2016: Marine Corps, 1964-69, Vietnam War

• Robert Claude Rogan, 1925-2015: Navy, 1943-45, World War II

• Robert Frank Rugg, 1926-2004: Marine Corps, 1943-46, World War II

• Douglas Lloyd Taylor, 1947-2005: Navy, 1966-70, Vietnam War

• Richard Andrew Varela, 1964-1994*: Marine Corps, 1982-86

• Kenneth Charles Younce, 1959-2000: Army, 1990-91, Gulf War

* Veterans' family or friends in attendance at ceremony