ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — For more than 100 years, the cremated remains of two brothers — Civil War soldiers from Indiana — sat on a funeral home shelf, unclaimed and largely forgotten.
On Thursday, their remains were given a final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, which dedicated a new columbarium court designed to hold the cremated remains of more than 20,000 eligible service members and family.
It is the ninth columbarium court at Arlington, where roughly 400,000 are interred.
The first six remains to be interred at the court were recovered by the Missing In America Project, an organization based in Grants Pass, Ore., that scours funeral homes across the country to recover remains of veterans that have gone unclaimed.
Since 2006, the project has visited nearly 2,800 funeral homes and found more than 2,000 cremated remains of veterans, including six Civil War veterans. The group researches the names of anyone who could be a potential veteran, and if they find one, they organize a burial service, usually at the nearest VA cemetery, where veterans are entitled to a free burial.
In Indiana, the group’s work uncovered brothers Zuinglius and Lycurgus McCormack, whose ashes had sat on the shelves of a funeral home since their deaths in 1912 and 1908, respectively. Group researchers found that Zuinglius served as a lieutenant with Indiana’s 132nd Infantry Regiment and was part of Sherman’s Army, seeing action at the battles of Kennesaw Mountain and Jonesboro, among others. Lycurgus, the younger brother, was a private in the state’s 103rd Infantry Regiment.
The others interred included Peter Schwartz, a Navy seaman who served in World War I, Marine Corps Pfc. Albert Klatt, who served in World War II, Air Force Staff Sgt. Dennis Banks, who served in Vietnam and Coast Guard Seaman 2nd Class Virginia Wood, who served in World War II with the guard’s Women’s Reserve.
“They served our country,” said MIAP’s vice president, Linda Smith. “If we don’t find them … who knows that they ever existed if they’re stuck in a storage facility somewhere?”
Arlington’s director, Kathryn Condon, said Thursday’s service was the ideal way to dedicate the new court.
“I can’t think of a better way to dedicate this hallowed ground than by honoring these forgotten heroes who until now did not have a resting place befitting their service and sacrifice,” she said.
The new court’s size — more than 2 acres — and design allow it to hold nearly twice as many remains as the next largest court. Remains are placed in niches several cubic feet in size.
As Arlington faces increasing pressures on its capacity, the columbarium has gone a long way toward extending the cemetery’s life. About 68 percent of interments at Arlington now are cremations, cemetery officials said, a reflection of an increasing use of cremation nationally as well as Arlington policies that make more service members eligible for inurnment than ground burial.
Cemetery spokeswoman Jennifer Lynch said that without the new court, the cemetery would have run out of space for cremated remains in 2016.
The $15.6 million project, overseen by the Norfolk district of the Army Corps of Engineers, came in on time and under budget, said Peter Reilly, the Corps’ project manager for Arlington.
The marble niche covers installed Thursday included each service member’s name, rank, year of birth and death and the words: “You are not forgotten.”