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July/August 2017
Photo: Ray Holtz
Denver Chapter 1071:
Colorado’s Honors Burial Program

© Xande AndererIn March 2015 Denver Chapter 1071 learned of a need to help provide a proper burial for more than 868 cremains of possible veterans. This project of historic proportion resulted from an accidental meeting at an awards ceremony with Lloyd Swint, general manager of Olinger Hampden and Eastlawn Cemeteries and Mortuary. He mentioned that he had unclaimed remains in his mausoleum at Eastlawn. Most were decades old. The oldest was found to date back to 1934 and, as with the majority, was transferred with the chain of custody to Eastlawn. Swint coordinated with Chapter 1071 to inventory and record the stored remains.

Cremains from across Colorado have been stored in mass crypts or on shelves. Some have remained unclaimed for half a century. Under the leadership of Bill Hilliard, a member of 1071’s Board of Directors, the chapter began the process of identifying and laying to rest the military veterans who had been truly forgotten and left in extremely unsatisfactory conditions.

On October 31, 2015, eighteen members of Chapter 1071’s Honors Burial Committee spent ten hours inspecting every box and container of cremains at Olinger Eastlawn. Using nine laptops and working a total of 868 cremation certificates, they transcribed the information on each cremation certificate, along with storage location and identifying catalog numbers.

Unfortunately, the VA requires three points of identification to be eligible for burial in a national cemetery. A sustained effort to develop standing access to official records was well underway when a section of law was discovered that was enacted in 2009 by the Colorado Legislature, CRS 15-19-106(4)(b)(II). This section gave Chapter 1071, as a veterans service organization, authority to gain access to remains and records in order to identify veterans for transfer to a national cemetery.

While the process was being administered, a search began for a woodworking group to make wooden urns for the cremains. A local group—The Colorado Woodworkers Guild—answered our plea and began handcrafting urns to honor veterans’ cremains properly. With the cooperation of these craftspeople, Chapter 1071 was able to proceed with the Honors Burial Program and lay to rest the first thirty veterans with dignity.

On June 25, 2016, we presented thirty sets of cremains to Fort Logan National Cemetery for interment. In addition to full military honors, the ceremony included a flyover by the Colorado Air National Guard.

In October 2016 Chapter 1071 began planning for the next Honors Burial Program under the leadership of Jim Topkoff. This second interment ceremony took place on March 24, 2017. Kirk Bol, manager of the Colorado Vital Statistics Program, and seventeen analysts at the St. Louis VA Records Department had identified twenty-two veterans.

In addition to Chapter 1071, the Patriot Honor Guard, Colorado Sons of the American Revolution, the Scottish American Military Society, Authentic U.S. Military Dog Tags, and bugler Paula Shaffer participated in the late-spring interment ceremony. With coverage from several TV and radio stations, as well as local newspapers, some two million people learned about the program.

This same coalition came together again on June 23, again at Fort Logan National Cemetery. This time they interred with honors an additional nineteen veterans, ranging in rank from private to colonel. Most served during the Second World War.

Chapter 1071 members are honored to be involved in this service to the state of Colorado. The theme throughout this endeavor has been: “I once was lost, but now I’m found.”

For further information—as well as photos, videos, and news reports—on the Chapter 1071 Honors Burial Program, visit www.vva1071.org Robert Primeaux, Ph.D., is the chapter liaison.




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