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Unclaimed remains of 13 veterans to get full military burials

Remains of 13 military veterans left unclaimed in a Detroit morgue -- including men who served in Vietnam -- will be buried with full military honors Thursday in a Veterans Administration national cemetery.

The bodies are the last of about 200 that were unclaimed and being held by the Wayne County medical examiner's office. The civilian burials were completed last month.

The 13 veterans, who will be buried in caskets, make up the largest group of unclaimed or homeless service members to be laid to rest at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Oakland County's Holly Township, cemetery director Roy Luera told The Oakland Press.

All of the men died within the past three years, but their remains were left unclaimed at the county coroner's office, Fred Salanti, president of Missing in America Project, told FoxNews.com. Their service dates go back as far as the mid-1950s, according to the newspaper. At least one veteran served in the Korean War.

The veterans, seven of whom served in Vietnam, will be buried beginning at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, following a two-hour, 13-hearse procession from the morgue. State police will accompany the procession to Great Lakes National Cemetery in Oakland County's Holly Township.

"These men served our country honorably and deserve to be laid to rest in the same manner," said David Techner, funeral director of the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield and a member of the coalition responsible for the burials.

The coalition includes the Michigan Funeral Directors Association from Wayne and Oakland Counties, The Jewish Fund, Missing in America Project and volunteers.

Funeral arrangements were coordinated by the Missing in America Project, which also led efforts to identify and verify the military service record of each deceased veteran. The organization was founded in 2007 with the goal of locating, identifying and interring the unclaimed remains of U.S. veterans.

Some of the nearly 200 bodies went unclaimed for as much as three years before they were buried. The coalition stepped in when Wayne County was unable to bear the cost.

The board of The Jewish Fund, which supports community programs and services to help at-risk people improve their health, approved a grant of up to $60,000 in May to purchase caskets. The Detroit archdiocese contributed more than $400,000 for burial services and maintenance.

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