SANTA FE (KRQE) - Six deceased veterans, their remains unclaimed for as long as 23 years, received full military honors Tuesday when they were buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.
Gov. Susana Martinez delivered the eulogy for these men she called New Mexico heroes.
Some of the soldiers were in their 70s or 80s; some were homeless.
Army Pfc. James Lang from Taos passed away in 1989. Lang served in world war two, and his ashes sat in limbo for 23 years.
The New Mexico department of veterans' services took possession of the remains after county representatives and the office of the medical investigator conducted searches for surviving family members.
The state's "forgotten heroes" burial program steps in when family members can't be found or if their family members refuse to bury them.
The goal is to give the veterans a dignified funeral.
With no relatives to speak of, the military says these men are members of a larger family.
"What we've done as a state is stepped up and said we will make sure they are provided a proper burial and that we become their family," said Tim Hale, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services.
The cost of burying and handling the remains of these soldiers has been paid for by Hale's department.
Some funeral homes also cremated the remains for free.
"It is also comforting to see that New Mexicans pull together when someone so important as a hero for Americans that we come together to make sure that they do get a final salute," Martinez said.
The department has had at least 25 similar funerals in the three years since the program began.
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