Coroner's Office Inters Unclaimed Veterans

Occasionally there are individuals who pass away in Chester County where the next of kin cannot be located or the next of kin declines responsibility for the individual. In these situations, the Coroner’s Office takes possession of the deceased individual and arranges for a cremation. 

In order to determine if any of these individuals are veterans, and therefore eligible for a military funeral with honors, the Coroner’s Office contacts the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Hospital in Coatesville, PA, the Veterans Services Office in Tennessee, the US Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Scheduling Office in Missouri, and Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Newtown, PA to determine eligibility. Once we determine a veteran is eligible for a military funeral with honors, we work with the military honors groups to arrange for a ceremony. This year our intern, Justine Newman, worked on this project and found there were seven veterans who were eligible for interment at Washington Crossing National Cemetery: three in the US Marines, two in the US Navy, and two in the US Army (one of whom was a colonel).
flag folding
On May 17th, 2017, two representatives from the Coroner’s office, Justine Newman and transporter Anthony Wright, arrived at Washington Crossing Cemetery with the veterans’ cremains. The cremains were placed on a pedestal and the ceremony began with the firing of three volley shots and playing of Taps. Once this was completed, each branch of the service folded a flag for their veterans. The flags were presented to Anthony Wright. Upon completion of the ceremony, the Coroner’s office donated the flags back to Washington Crossing, to be flown in the cemetery. 

The veterans each have their own niche in the columbarium which will be engraved with their name, branch of service, rank, dates of birth and death, and the inscription “Proudly Served.” All seven of our veterans from this interment are in the same row. 

The Chester County Coroner’s Office repeats this process every few years for our unclaimed veterans as we believe it is an appropriate way to thank them for their service. 

Photos by Justine Newman