AB1644, authored by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), passed unanimously out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee yesterday. The bill allows veterans organizations, such as the Missing in America Project, to go into mortuaries across California in order to locate and identify the unclaimed cremains (cremated remains) of forgotten veterans. Once the cremains have been officially identified, they are honorably interred at a veteran's cemetery.
If a veteran dies but there is no next of kin to claim them, the cremains could sit on shelves indefinitely. Recently, a state hospital announced that 3,500 cremains were on their shelves waiting to be identified. These cremains span a period from the 1890's to 1971 and it is estimated that close to 1,000 are veterans. It is also estimated that most medical examiners and coroners do not verify cremains for veteran's status. AB 1644 allows credible veterans organizations to transport those cremains and give them the honorable burial they deserve.
Assemblyman Nielsen said, "AB 1644 will give honorable men and women an honorable interment and I am pleased the Judiciary Committee passed this important bill. Several veterans' groups, such as the Missing in America Project, travel around the nation and throughout California searching for forgotten servicemen and women whose cremains sit on shelves. These organizations gather information, verify veteran status, and properly inter veterans or veteran-dependents with respect and dignity. I am proud to be joined by several of my Assembly and Senate colleagues in supporting the noble mission being carried out by these organizations."
Since 2007, Fred Salanti's Missing in America Project has traveled the nation looking for veterans of all wars. Salanti said, "I want to thank the committee for passing the bill; this legislation is a step closer to bridging the gap between the funeral homes and groups like ours. We can now work in congruent harmony and move forward to assure every veteran has a resting place with dignity and honor." Salanti went on to emphasize his organization's motto by saying, "It is the right thing to do."
AB 1644 will next be heard in the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee within the next couple of weeks.