FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- Eighteen local veterans may have been forgotten and never been given a proper burial if it wasn't for the work of the Missing in America Project. Monday, hundreds of people came together at the Southern Arizona Veterans' Memorial Cemetery in Sierra Vista to properly pay their respect and bury the fallen in proper graves.

"Today we are all united for one goal, and that's to not forget these veterans and honor them," explained Bob Day, MIAP state coordinator.

MIAP's mission is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations. This is to provide honor and respect to those who have served the
United States.

Approximately 200 motorcyclists escorted the 18 cremated remains from Tucson to their final resting place in Sierra Vista. American flags lined the walkway as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines carried the cremated remains from the hearse into the service. Local and state politicians, servicemembers, veterans and members of the community took part.

"We don't know a whole lot about all 18 people, but we do know one thing - that at some point in time, every one of these men either stepped forward to serve this great nation or were drafted. They served varying lengths; they served since Korea up to the Cold War. The other thing we know about each and every one of them, they were presented an honorable discharge from the armed forces. To us, and I'm sure for all of you, that in itself is enough reason for us to be here today," Day stated, while speaking during the service.

All 18 individuals are from Cochise and Pima Counties. The oldest man laid to rest Monday was born in 1916; he served in World War II. The highest ranking individual laid to rest was a lieutenant in the Navy who served in Vietnam. One of the servicemembers being honored just passed away this February.

During the service, veterans from the Veterans of Foreign Wars read the name, rank, and tour of each fallen servicemember, after which a bell was rung in their honor.

"I think it's just humbling, to say the least. I'm just proud that I can be here to honor the fallen, represent them and ensure they get a proper burial, just as any veteran would want," stated Col. Timothy Faulkner, Fort Huachuca garrison commander.

"Our Army today owes these men a debt of gratitude for paving the way for us, particularly in World War I and World War II," stated Chaplain (Col.) Kenneth Revell, Fort
Huachuca chaplain.

"They did what 90 percent of Americans will not do or have not done, and that is to don the uniform and to take on the challenge of what it means to be a Soldier, what it means to fight for freedom, and understand that, probably at the very core level. All of us who've been in this country, and never ventured beyond this country, have no idea of the freedoms that we have in a country of law and order, and a lot of those things we take for granted,"
Revell added.

"The possibility that these 18 veterans could have been forgotten about is just not right in America," stated Day, adding that the way veterans are treated says a lot about a country.
"MIAP believes all these men must not be forgotten. We're here to work with any and every veterans' organization, any individual that will help us find each and every veteran. They did their part to serve this country - they deserve to not be forgotten," Day said.

This is just the beginning, he explained. There are close to 300 veterans from Pima County whose remains have languished on a shelf in Tucson with no proper burial for almost 20 years. Until now, no one ever checked to see if those individuals were veterans, Day said.

The next step is for MIAP to go through approximately 10 names at a time and apply to give those individuals a proper burial.

"They need America to step forward and ensure they are buried with honor. They need America to show their thanks for their service. Without them, we would not have the freedoms we enjoy today," added Day.

For more information on the Missing in America Project, visit www.MIAP.US.