Each Memorial Day, we have the opportunity to pause and remember our nation's men and women in uniform who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we all enjoy. While we gather with our families and friends to enjoy parades and backyard barbecues, it is important that we share with our children the reason why we celebrate this special day. The selfless sacrifices of so many have secured our liberty.
Three years ago, I met with some concerned members of our community who were starting work on a unique project to help honor our nation's veterans who have passed away. This group of citizens introduced me to the work of the Missing in America Project (MIAP). Sometimes when individuals pass away, there is no next of kin identified, and their remains stay at funeral homes unclaimed. The Missing in America Project works with local veteran service organizations, funeral home directors, and the other groups to identify veterans whose remains are unclaimed. When possible, these organizations then team to provide a proper burial.
This week, I had the honor of being present for a watershed event for Ohio's Missing in America Project. Because of state-level legislation removing certain next-of-kin restrictions and the ongoing efforts of the MIAP, ten of Ohio's veterans received a proper burial at the Dayton National Cemetery. These veterans' remains had been unclaimed and held by funeral homes for as many as 28 years. The ceremony shows how far we have come, but we still have much to do. My bill, The Missing in America Act, directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to work with local veterans agencies and other groups in assisting entities in possession of unidentified or abandoned remains in determining if the remains are that of a veteran eligible for burial at a National Cemetery. If remains are determined to be that of an eligible veteran, there is no next of kin, and there are no available resources to cover burial and funeral expenses, then the Secretary of Veterans Affairs would cover the cost of burial. The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has passed my bill and it now awaits consideration by the full U.S. House of Representatives.
This bill would help Chastity Booth and Steve Ebersole here in Ohio, and others across the country, continue their mission with the Missing in America Project. I would like to thank them, and the countless other volunteers in this effort, as they continue their work to provide a proper, final resting place for every one of our veterans.
This Memorial Day as we remember and honor those who gave their lives in service to the United States, we can take another step in ensuring that all veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.