Governor Susana Martinez, New Mexico Department of Veterans Services Secretary Jack Fox and New Mexico Adjutant General Ken Nava paid tribute to New Mexico’s forgotten heroes at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.
The cremated remains of eight military veterans whose bodies, upon their deaths, were unclaimed by family members were honored at the Forgotten Heroes Funeral.
Laid to rest today were: U.S. Air Force A3C Alvin Appleton (served from Mar. 1975-Mar. 1976), U.S. Army veteran (rank unknown) Joseph Bell (10/62-10-64), USAF SrA Mark Lawson (4/72-11/74), U.S. Army veteran (rank unknown) Gordon Messuck (1/68-1/70), U.S. Army veteran (rank unknown) Charles Page (10/43-4/46), U.S. Army PFC Seyed Shafii (11/77-5/79), USMC Pfc Michael Sheeran (4/64-7/65), and U.S. Army PFC Gregory William Underhill (9/79-5/80).
All eight had Bernalillo County listed as their last known county of residence.
They were given a formal military funeral in accordance with the Forgotten Heroes Burial Program. This is a collaborative effort between the state and all 33 counties in New Mexico to ensure that any honorably-discharged deceased veteran whose body goes unclaimed receives a military funeral at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. The people of New Mexico are recognized as the “family” of these deceased veterans.
“It is an honor for us to provide these brave heroes with the proper burial they deserve,” said Governor Martinez. “I am proud to have the opportunity pay tribute to our forgotten heroes.”
The Governor, along with members from the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico State Police, and the American Legion Riders joined the procession from Albuquerque.
The funeral service featured a Flag-Fold Ceremony, 21-Rifle Volley, and a bugle rendition of Taps performed by a multi-branch United States Armed Forces Honor Guard. The service concluded with General Nava presenting the folded American Flag used to drape the urns to Governor Martinez, who accepted it on behalf of the citizens of New Mexico.
The Forgotten Heroes Burial Program was the first state-led collaborative effort in the nation to ensure that unclaimed deceased honorably-discharged veterans receive a military funeral.