By Digger Dave
M.I.A.P……If you’re not familiar with this acronym don’t feel alone. Most of us have the M.I.A part down but the “P” is a stickler trying to associate a word that goes along with the rest. Quick Throttle received an email from “Sparklz” in Tucson asking if we would be interested in providing coverage for an upcoming M.I.A.P event, the first one in the Phoenix area. With Quick Throttle being a huge supporter of our troops and anything associated with our military, past and present, we jumped on it with a resounding “Hell Yea!..Ummm What is it?” Always being curious about things, I’ll have to admit I did a search on them (as some of you may be doing right now) rather than wait on a response. I was astounded, how could this be? I had no idea at all that this was actually happening on a National level.
M.I.A.P…”Missing In America Project”. If you’re like me, then you’re probably thinking that this is about…well, missing people. In a way it is, but it’s at a level that I’m sure many of us have no clue about. Being a Military support based organization that provides help in locating the cremains of UNCLAIMED American Veterans. The word “Unclaimed” threw me off, how is it a Veteran can go “unclaimed”? I’m going to let M.I.A.P tell us what it is they do:
“The initial focus of the MIA Project is a massive, nation-wide effort to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed remains of forgotten veterans. This task will be executed through the combined, cooperative efforts of members of the American Legion, other volunteer service and veteran organizations, local Funeral Homes, State Funeral Commissions, State and National Veterans Administration Agencies, and the State and National Veterans Cemetery Administrations. Local, state and national laws must be followed in the identification, claiming process and proper interment of the unclaimed remains of forgotten veterans.”
I was still at a loss understanding how a Veteran could go “unclaimed”; it just didn’t register in my feeble brain. I started doing a little research but info on the subject of how our Vets were “lost” was slim to nothing at best. It turns out they weren’t really “lost” but had been cremated and then the cremains were never picked up, therefore they sat on Mortuary shelves waiting for someone to claim them and give them the proper Military burial they deserved.
I attended the event not really understanding what was happening other than some of our Veterans were going to finally receive the full Veteran internment they deserved. I talked to Sparklz (Natalya) and her husband Blaze (Michael) Nelson at the event and I was promptly speechless. At that particular service there was one Veteran whose cremains had been unclaimed, sitting in a Mortuary for 58 years!! Two others had been unclaimed for 56 years and 3 more for 55 years, with the shortest length of time being 33 years unclaimed! That was mind boggling, and at the same time very emotional realizing that these decorated Veterans from WWI and WWII were finally getting the burial with full honors they so much deserved. On that particular day in Phoenix at the National Memorial Cemetery 27 unclaimed Veterans were finally laid to rest.
We all know that in the biker community there are a heck of a lot of Veterans, and with this being the first ever M.I.A.P in the Phoenix area the turnout of riders was huge! I was at the cemetery awaiting the arrival of the procession when I realized this was a lot bigger than I had thought. Looking to the south I spotted 3 news choppers hovering in various places, and they stayed there. Finally they started moving a little bit closer, meaning the procession was about to “round the bend” heading to the ceremony. Police and Fire units suddenly started rolling in from the OPPOSITE direction, and there were a bunch of them. They set up at the entrance to the cemetery, stood at attention and saluted as soon as the pack was visible. It took over 40 minutes for the pack and the ensuing train of cages to finally make it thru the entrance. Veterans and their families, state dignitaries, along with those simply wishing to honor our Veterans packed the area solid. It was quite a sight to behold, old, young, newborn, disabled, all came together for one purpose, to pay our respects.
From here I’m just going to let M.I.A.P describe what their mission is all about, but first here is a poem written by Helen Glass (who turned 90 the next day), whom I was honored to meet and speak with. Her brother was one of the “lost”.
“I did my best in the fight
To help keep peace
Just glad that I came home
Safe and in one piece
Then I departed this life
And one day somehow got “lost” along the way.
I and other unfortunates
Just like me
How sad that must be
So, then I say but
Not in jest
I am finally going to be
“put to rest”
With full honors
A military ceremony
And I ask Dear God
Will they play “Taps” for me?
No longer unclaimed
Or “forgotten” are we
Someone did care
They must have heard our prayer
We are no longer “Missing in America”
We have been “found”
Finally, to be with other veterans
Here in this hallowed ground!
“THANK YOU FROM GRATEFUL
MISSING IN AMERICA VETERANS”
I wrote this if I were a spokesman for these Veterans finally being given the full Military Honors they deserve.”
-Helen Anderson Rickard Glass, US Navy WW2 Veteran, Life Member American Legion since June 1945.
About M.I.A.P (by M.I.A.P with their permission)
Ed Torres, Southern AZ Coordinator
Michael “Blaze” Nelson, AZ State Escort Team Leader
Natalya “Sparklz” Nelson, Media Coordinator
Gary and Liz Bartel, AZ State Chaplains
“MIAP is NOT a motorcycle club, but we are dependent upon and have strong relationships with various clubs throughout the State of AZ. These clubs ride in support of MIAP Missions.
MIAP is NOT a political organization. Politicians support us, but when they are at a MIAP event, they are never permitted to campaign, speechify, or speak of politics. They represent the Veteran Community.
MIAP AZ works closely with the VA at the Regional Office, National Cemetery in Cave Creek AZ, and the Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Sierra Vista.
MIAP AZ works closely with the various County Indigent Burial Services and County Fiduciaries (each County calls them by a different name).
MIAP is endorsed by the American Legion (Resolution 24).
MIAP AZ is endorsed by the Arizona Funeral Home, Cemetery and Cremation Association (AFCCA).
It must be made absolutely clear that the Funeral Homes and the Funeral Home Association (AFCCA) are our friends and allies. They help us whenever and wherever they can. They truly recognize the unfortunate circumstances of unclaimed human remains (cremains), and especially the unclaimed Cremains of American Veterans. We have the Endorsement of the AFCCA and the strong assistance of its members. Unclaimed cremains are in no way a reflection on any funeral home, crematory or cemetery. Unfortunately life happens, and many people outlive relatives, die indigent or without located friends knowing they have passed. MIAP steps in to help the Veterans.
After establishing a relationship with an individual funeral home, MIAP is invited by that funeral home to share in the information they have on unclaimed cremains. We sign a privacy statement and we do not share information concerning the unclaimed, except with the Veteran Administration. Never more than 2 people in the MIAP organization have access to the personal information about the cremated remains.
We submit the names of the unclaimed to the Veterans Administration. They are set up to handle requests but as you might imagine, in today’s world the wheels churn slowly so nationally we try not to over burden them. MIAP is respectful of their time and help. When we receive the names of known Veterans back from the VA, we complete more paperwork where we actually take responsibility for the Cremains and act as their surrogate family. This paperwork is kept on file at MIAP National as well as with the local funeral home and the Veterans Administration.
Shortly thereafter MIAP takes care of custody and control of the cremains and they are respectfully moved, usually by the participating funeral homes, to a staging funeral home in market segments.
The cremains are respectfully stored there until we have a number that will warrant an HONOR MISSION. In AZ we try to do our Missions in the early Spring and early Fall.
Traditionally we will have over 125 motorcycle riders from clubs all over the State of AZ, and many from our bordering States. In addition we usually expect over 30 cars, pickup trucks, etc. There are always 3 flag lines, one while loading the Cremains into the hearse, one while removing for placement in the Place of Honor and a third prior to being placed in their INDIVIDUAL proper burial vault.
Military from across the State participate, an Honor Detail carries the cremains from the funeral home to the hearse, and a Military Honor Guard carries from the hearse to the Place of Honor and then to the cremains vault. The VA and various Veteran organizations are present to help as well as many civic groups volunteering their services on Mission Day.
Cremains come to us in cans, bags, and cardboard boxes. They are buried in beautiful urns with the deceased Veteran’s name, date of birth, date of death, and branch of service engraved on their urn.
To learn more about Missing In America Project in Arizona please visit our website www.MIAPArizona.org and facebook page www.facebook.com/MIAP.SouthernArizona”
Thank you M.I.A.P for what you do, and thank YOU Veterans for your service and your sacrifice. MIAP is national, for more info on what may be happening in your state please visit: http://www.miap.us
Ride Safe~~Ride Free