It can sometimes be hard to take, but not every veteran has a family around to honor them when they pass. Thankfully, Californians have proven definitively that when family can't do it, strangers will.
On Wednesday, strangers gathered at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery to attend a ceremony honoring 169 fallen veterans whose remains were never claimed by friends or kin. Under dozens of American flags snapping proudly in the wind, people the veterans never knew made sure that their service wasn't forgotten.
According to Fox 40, Sacramento's cemetery hosts this type of commemorative service several times throughout the year, but usually on a much smaller scale. Craig Allen, operations foreman at the cemetery, pointed to the laudatory efforts of the Missing in America Project – a group that locates veterans without families – for the expanded scope of the ceremony.
"They actively sought out these veterans that have somehow not been accorded the honors that they deserve," Allen told Fox 40.
Three of the veterans buried on Wednesday who were found by MIAP were from or near Napa County, the Napa Valley Register reported. Two of them – Waightsel Lumpkin and Keith Sipma – were Army veterans who served during World War II. The third was Quenton Nickell, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War.
Craig Hall, another Army veteran, was appointed Napa County's very first veterans remains officer last summer. He worked with the county sheriff's office and MIAP to locate the three men, who were taken to the national cemetery via procession.
There, along with all the other fallen, the Register reported that they received a full memorial service complete with rifle volleys, taps, and a presentation of the American flag to a veteran in attendance.