Unclaimed veterans laid to rest in West Virginia

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DUNBAR, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Memorial Day is a day to honor, respect and remember those who died while fighting for our country.

Three veterans were honored Monday and laid to rest at the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Dunbar, West Virginia.

A lot of times, these soldiers are people we know and love, but sadly that isn't the case for all of them.

The West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance (WVDVA) on Monday held an Unclaimed Veteran Interment Ceremony at the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Dunbar.

The veterans honored were those whom, after their death, no family could be found. The WVDVA reached out to morgues and funeral homes throughout the state to search for unclaimed veterans.

Three of them were honored and buried during Monday's ceremony: Air Force Sgt. Eddie Elkins, a Korean War veteran; Army Sgt. Roosevelt Hatch, Vietnam War veteran; and Navy Fireman George Righter, Persian Gulf veteran.

Dennis Davis, the cabinet secretary for the WVDA, says this is the first time they have done something like this.

"We owe them that much respect, that we will not leave anybody behind that we know of," Davis said. "We are more than happy, an honored to bury them here at this cemetery."

A flag folding ceremony was held for each fallen soldier, and the flags are typically given to family but because they did not have kin, the flags were given to other veterans.

Michael Whitlatch, an army veteran, received the flag of Sgt. Hatch.

"It is a great honor to be apart of this, to be chosen. I will take the flag home and display it with great honor," Whitlatch said.

Davis says they are hoping to hold more ceremonies like this each year.