TAMPA, Fla. — This Memorial Day we are shining a light on retired military members who are dying without any family or friends by their side.
What You Need To Know
- The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association is a group that works to identify veterans who pass away
- The group performs a special military ceremony to honor the veterans’ lives
They are alone, and many are buried in what the National Cemeteries Administration calls “unattended funerals."
Officials say the veterans have no family or friends or have outlived them all.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs stated veterans that who served in World War II, now in their 80s and 90s, are dying at a rate of more than 200 per day across the country.
Many of them die alone.
“Today we actually have two unclaimed veterans, and we will be escorting them all the way down to Sarasota,” said U.S. Army veteran Gregory Mello.
Mello is with the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, a Tampa area group that works to identify veterans who pass away, and that no one claims.
The group performs a special military ceremony to honor their lives, and an escort, usually involving local police, to their final resting place.
Recently, the group performed services for two veterans: David Reynolds, a United States Coast Guard veteran born March 2, 1940, and Robert A. Megill, a U.S. Army veteran born July 28, 1945.
“I get caught up every time,” Mello said. “I always have that tear in my eye, because it just hurts to see these people unclaimed.”
Mello says his group provides dozens of military funeral services throughout the year, partnering with local VA hospitals like Bay Pines VA Healthcare System and James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital.
The group also works with local law enforcement that helps with funeral escort services.
Leading the services for Reynolds and Megill is Chief of Chaplain Services at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System Joe Stephens.
“We live in a time where it appears that civility, dignity and respect for others, the value of human life is fading away,” said Stephens. "This is an opportunity for those to witness what it means to serve this nation.”
Go here to get more information on the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.