St. Maries has its fair share of patriotic residents, and two of them want to make sure veterans are not forgotten after they die.
Chuck and Patricia Stalnaker are two of three people in Idaho who are registered volunteers in the Missing in America Project (MIAP.)
The MIAP is a national non-profit organization that tasks itself with locating and identifying the unclaimed remains of American veterans.
Mr. Stalnaker is a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeantwho, along with his wife Mrs. Stalnaker, recently joined the MIAP. The two look to bring closure to families who have lost a veteran family member and were not notified of the death.
“You're hoping that you can find a member of an individual's family so their remains can go back to that family,” Mrs. Stalnaker said.
The two work together with local funeral homes that have remains of people who have not been given a funeral service. They said that the funeral homes will have a list of individuals whose cremated remains have not been claimed.
“We’ve worked closely with Hodge Funeral Home and we are pleased with the results we have gotten so far,” Mr Stalnaker said.
The two send the names and other information of people who have not been claimed to the National Record Center in St. Louis to find out if those persons were veterans. The service also expands to the dependents of those who served in the military.
“We also want to identify and give a proper service to spouses and children of veterans too,” Mrs. Stalnaker said.
After they receive the results, the two then contact a local genealogist to find out who that individual’s next of kin is.
“If the person turns out to be a veteran we let the next of kin know and from there they can claim those remains,” Mr. Stalnaker said. “If they choose not to claim the remains then we work with the National Cemetery in Medical Lake to organize a military funeral.”
The two said it is a long process and that it takes time to get results. They currently are waiting to hear back on individuals that they submitted to the record center in the last four months.
“There’s a lot of leg work and time involved for the result you get, its a labor of love,” Mr. Stalnaker said. “Once you're gone and you’ve been cremated it doesn’t really matter for the individual, but it does for those who are still alive. This is my way of showing respect to that veteran.”
The MIAP has a 12 year history in the United States and nationally the organization has located 19,456 unclaimed cremated remains, with 4,279 of those being veterans and eligible dependents.
Mr. Stalnaker said that any donations given to the MIAP funds the volunteers in each state and their efforts to identify and provide funerals for unclaimed veterans and their families.
“Any contributions we get we send to our national headquarters and it is distributed into an account for Idaho,” Mr. Stalnaker said. “Each state gets its own funding. It doesn’t all go to some national account.”
For those who wish to donate to or get involved with the MIAP, visit their website at www.miap.us or contact Mr. and Mrs. Stalnaker at 208-245-1990.