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The Daily Guide - Waynesville, MO
  • Funeral to be held for Waynesville veteran who died five years ago

  • At 58 years old, retired Staff Sgt. William Louis Foster Jr. left the world silently. Family members did not mourn next to his grave. A three-volley salute never fired in his honor. A trumpet never played Taps in recognition of his service.
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  • At 58 years old, retired Staff Sgt. William Louis Foster Jr. left the world silently. Family members did not mourn next to his grave. A three-volley salute never fired in his honor.  A trumpet never played Taps in recognition of his service.
    Instead, Foster's ashes were silently stored in the Waynesville Memorial Chapel and Crematory, where they have remained unclaimed for the past five years.
    Thousands of unclaimed veterans' remains, dating back to the 1800s, are stored in funeral homes and medical facilities across the nation, according to Don Gerspach, who works with the Missing in America Project (MIAP). The organization works to locate, identify,and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans.
    Since 2007, MIAP volunteers have worked tirelessly to ensure veterans like Foster are not forgotten and given the proper military funeral they deserve. The organization has identified 2,270 veterans remains and interred more than 2,000 veterans remains.
    On Friday, Foster will get the burial he earned after serving 15 years in the Army.
    According to Gerspach, there is little known about Foster's life. He was an American Legion member who served in the Army as a motor transport operator from January 27, 1970 to June 10, 1985. When he died in 2009, he was estranged from his family who didn't claim his remains.
    “Typically these are veterans who have been estranged from their family or  just didn't have any family left when they passed,”  Gerspach said.
    Gerspach has been a volunteer with the organization since 2008. Gerspach works as the Missouri State Coordinator for MIAP. He works with volunteers across the state to find unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans.
    “It's a final way of serving veterans, because, really, nothing comes after the funeral. It is a shame to have veterans who die who don't get recognized for their service. They are authorized a military honors funeral and they should have it.”
    In Missouri alone, MIAP has identified 134 veterans' cremated remains. Gerspach said MIAP has a particular and complicated process that usually takes a lot of time that usually starts with searching through funeral home inventories for unclaimed remains and looking through Veterans Affairs records for any matches.
    In Foster's case, a MIAP volunteer knew of Foster, which helped speed up the process.
    Gerspach said that MIAP in Missouri is looking for volunteers to help with the organization and he encourages anyone who knows of a veteran who didn't get a proper military funeral to email him at mo@miap.us.
    The military honors ceremony will take place at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery, Ft. Leonard Wood on Friday, July 18 at 10 a.m.
    For information about the Missing In America Project, visit www.miap.us.

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