Two American Legion members dedicated to seeing that military veterans receive proper burials are among the motorcyclists escorting the ashes of four Marine Corps and Navy veterans to the National Cemetery at Florence.
Larry Truax of American Legion Post 186 in Little River and John Bianchi and Bill Stewart of Post 178 in Murrells Inlet will accept the cremated remains at McMillan-Small Funeral Home and carry the wooden urns to meet a larger escort in Aynor for the last leg of the journey to the National Cemetery in Florence.
A burial ceremony, including a flag line and honor guard, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday. Truax says the urns were made and donated by members of Rolling Thunder. Many of the motorcyclists are members of Patriot Guard Riders, a spinoff unit of American Legion Riders.
The remains are those of: Joseph Robert Ochlech, Petty Officer 3rd Class, U.S. Navy, 1968-1970 (Vietnam War era); Aluster Lee Farmer, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps 1956-1959; David Earl Newnes, Private, USMC 1966-1969; and Charles Bryce Carrick, Seaman, USN, 1945-1949 (World War II).
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The remains had been unclaimed at McMillan-Small and Horry County coroner Robert Edge suggested McMillan-Small notify Truax. The funeral home’s records showed some military service, but Traux says “there’s a lot of scenarios’’ with unclaimed ashes. One of the questions on a death certificate asks if the deceased was a military veteran. “You have to go through a process,’’ before unclaimed remains can be turned over to the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans or Veterans of Foreign Wars, he said.
Truax sent the information from the funeral home to the National Cemetery Scheduling and Eligibility Office in St. Louis. Once it was determined that the remains were those of an honorably discharged veteran, burial was scheduled in a national cemetery.
Truax is a member of the Missing in America Project, a veterans service organization. Linda Smith described MIAP as an authorizing agency for the 50 states. Smith says the 7-year-old organization has recently been approved to receive funds from the Combined Federal Campaign, the charitable fundraising arm for the military services and other federal agencies. “We’re struggling; we’re a small organization,’’ Smith says. The CFC designation is a welcome source of funds for the 501 (c) (3).
Bianchi and Truax are volunteers, as is another Legion member in the Columbia area, Steven Goulet. Only last week, six veterans were interred at the Fort Jackson National Cemetery, which adjoins the Army base. Once unclaimed remains are identified as veterans, legal notices are published. “Through notification, some have been claimed by their families,’’ Bianchi says.
Truax and Bianchi are eager to enlist the help of other funeral directors and coroners in locating the remains of veterans. “Nobody’s racing around helping us,’’ Bianchi says. “We keep at it.’’