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MIAP: A patriotic mission
L to r: Billy Morgan, Gina Hall, Joe Boyett, and Ronnie Thomas
L to r: Billy Morgan, Gina Hall, Joe Boyett, and Ronnie Thomas

Four members of VFW Post 7764 went to the Georgia National Cemetery at Canton as part of the Missing In America Project (MIAP) in Georgia whereby unclaimed cremated remains (cremains) of retired or former U.S. servicemen are escorted to Canton for a formal interment on Tuesday, April 19th, 2022.  

It was a trip they will not soon forget.  Quartermaster Ronnie Thomas, Adjutant Billy Morgan, Service Officer Gina Hall, and Auxiliary President Joe Boyett left Reidsville at 6:00 a.m. as a local contingent to represent the cremated remains of SGT Samuel T. Sharpe, U.S. Army, Vietnam Era; SP4 Vernon R. Grob, U.S. Army, Vietnam Era; and PVT Joseph Donald Adair, U.S. Army, Vietnam Era.  These soldiers were cremated at Low Country Cremation and Burial in Tattnall County, Georgia, and no family or friends came forward to claim their remains. Three of the six cremains interred were of servicemen who died in Tattnall County.

MIAP has been championed in Tattnall County by VFW 7764 Auxiliary Treasurer Susan Thomas who works part time at Bradley B. Anderson Low Country Cremation and Burial in Reidsville and Glennville. She provides VFW members with updated information on the date, time and location of the service and would have attended if not for a conflict in her schedule.  The service was cancelled in 2021 due to COVID.

The event started at the Georgia Memorial Park Funeral Home and Cemetery in Marietta at 11 a.m.  After the initial service, a convoy said to be over a mile long that included law enforcement officers from various jurisdictions in the area, the Patriot Guard riders, and VFW and American Legion members from around the state escorted the cremains to the Cemetery at Canton.

The ceremony at the cemetery began at 1 p.m. and included a reading of the names of the six service members and a description of their service punctuated by a bell ringing after each name.  The end of the service was marked by three volleys of fire by the Marine Corps League Ceremonial Rifle Team and the playing of Taps by Bugles across America. Bagpiper Tommy Burnes added solemnly and beauty to the ceremony.   

The 7764 members who attended were very much impressed.  

 “It was really first class.  Georgia State Patrol, police and sheriff’s deputies in and around Marietta shut down traffic at all intersections so the convoy could pass through unobstructed.  Law enforcement officers stood at attention and saluted as the vehicles passed.  At one point along the way construction crews stopped work and got off their machines to salute with hands over their hearts,” VFW 7764 Adjutant Billy Morgan said.

7764 Service Officer Gina Hall said it was a touching and beautiful ceremony.  

“There were people alongside the roads and on the overpasses waving American flags. It would put a lump in your throat,” Hall said. 

Auxiliary President Joe Boyett was more direct.  “It was just something to see,” he said.  “It brought tears to my eyes.”

7764 Quartermaster Ronnie Thomas mentioned that the precision of city, county and state law enforcement agencies taking over and handing off traffic control responsibilities along the route showed the extent of planning and coordination involved. 

“It was an ‘all hands on deck’ operation,” Thomas said. 

A poem (below) by poet Charlie Tritto entitled We Will Find You sums up the mission:

You proudly served your nation

Then continued on your way

Through a life like most others

‘Till the day you passed away

For no one was there with you

As you found yourself alone

When the Lord laid His hand upon you

And brought your spirit home

But we know you are still out there

Be you flesh or ashes…grey

Among the missing in America

Ever since that fateful day

But be assured dear comrades

That we hear your languished calls, 

From tarnished urns or caskets worn

We hear you one and all

So we will keep on searching

Until we finally get you home

When we will be your family

And you’ll no longer be alone