Ashes of 4 Unclaimed Antrim Co. Veterans Honored at Memorial Day Ceremony

“These gentlemen served their country, they deserved to have a final day.”

One man made it his mission to honor four Antrim County veterans this Memorial Day.

Four men he never even knew.

Last year a founding member of the Forgotten Eagles learned about the unclaimed ashes of four Antrim County veterans.

Monday he made sure they got the recognition they deserve.

For one of them it’s been 18 years since his death

“It’s like the aircraft carrier of Ronald Reagan has been lifted off my shoulders. It is a tremendous relief for me

Last year William Nelson learned the Mortensen Funeral Home in Mancelona had the ashes of four veterans.

All of them unclaimed for years.

“And Ron, the funeral director didn’t know exactly how to take care of them properly. So this is when we started to investigate,” Nelson said.

He then reached out to the American Legion Post in Mancelona.

The commander of the post says, unfortunately, this is fairly a common issue.

“It’s not really just a local problem. Twenty percent of ashes go unclaimed and some of those just happen to be veterans,” post commander 264, Herbert Pipton said.

So with help from the Antrim County veteran group and the Fairview Cemetery, these heroes were laid to rest.

“We’ve been working for a year to get this all together and it’s taken that long to get the 214s get the stones for these gentlemen, get em in the ground,” Pipton said.

And Monday World War II veteran Bernard Crothers, World War II vet William Grice, Vietnam Vet David Mieras and U.S. Navy Veteran James Ehrcke, were finally honored for their service.

“I want these veterans to have a proper burial. And that is my reason for finding out what we had to do and what we could do to I guess make my dream come true,” Nelson said.

Veterans at Monday’s service say they hope to see more people showing up to support our service men and women.

“We got to respect our veterans more and more all the time. Freedom isn’t free,” says Friends of Veterans president Raymond Mills.

The American Legion tells us there’s still room for about 20 more veterans’ ashes to be buried at the cemetery.