ZIONSVILLE, Ind. – The remains of three Army veterans who served in conflicts as long ago as the Civil War have been inurned at Marion National Cemetery.
After a ceremony at Veteran’s Park in Zionsville celebrating the lives of Civil War Pvt. Hiram Maine, World War I Pct. Forest Smith and World War II Army Cpl. Leo Valdez Jr., American Legion Riders and other motorcyclists escorted the soldiers’ remains Saturday to the cemetery in northeastern Indiana for final burial.
“They were just a name until you hold these veterans in your hands,” Bart Colvin, Indiana coordinator for the Missing in America Project, told the Indianapolis Star. “I’d like to say we became friends – they are quiet. But we all became very close.”
Maine, who died in 1927, was well-known in Indianapolis and often wrote newspaper editorials, said Rick France of the Genealogical Society of Marion County, who researched each of the veterans. Maine ran for lieutenant governor on the People’s Party ticket and once was arrested on federal charges for threatening a lawmaker.
Smith served in the European theater in 1918 in an air squadron, probably as part of the maintenance crew. Smith had family who lived outside of Indiana, but they did not claim his remains after he died in 1935.
After Valdez died in December 1978, a service was held and, per family tradition, his remains were cremated for placement into a vault, his son, John Valdez, said. The family has since learned a miscommunication on the final arrangements resulted in the remains being placed in a crypt with other unclaimed remains.
John Valdez said he and his brother, sister and other family members were shocked when Colvin contacted them.
“We are just overwhelmed by the support from everyone,” Valdez told the Star. “It is a wonderful.”
Since 2006, the Missing in America Project has identified 3,125 veterans’ cremains and has inurned 1,855.