Daniel Poirer finds the remains of military veterans and makes sure they’re given a proper military burial. And when there are no family members or friends to mourn these fallen heroes, he and other volunteers make sure someone is there when those remains are finally put to rest.
Poirer, as part of a national non-profit group, is on a mission to help ensure no veteran goes without proper military honors after death.
The Missing in America Project has representatives spread out in states all across the nation constantly searching for unclaimed remains of qualified veterans. They’ll also help families or friends of veterans who may soon pass away, but don’t have the means to (or know-how) to ensure their loved one receives the death benefits to which they’re entitled.
“We’ve been doing this now for about 12 years,” said Poirier, MIAP’s Georgia State Coordinator and National Training Officer. “We search out the unclaimed remains that have been sitting on a shelf as well as veteran spouses and dependent children under 21.”
Poirier says the oldest set of remains the organization has dealt with so far was an unclaimed cremated child of a veteran that had been sitting on a shelf in Seattle, Washington for 94 years.
MIAP works with funeral homes and crematoriums to find the remains of individuals who qualify for military burial. Most of those remains have been cremated — “cremains” as Poirier calls them — but the group also helps to arrange and fund the transportation of remains in caskets, if needed.
“We work with the Jefferson barracks in St. Louis to verify if someone is a qualified veteran, then we do our best to give them a dignified and respectful funeral,” said Poirier.
MIAP volunteers also do their best to ensure that no veteran is buried, interred or has their ashes scattered alone.
“Usually nobody shows up and we’re often the only family there,” said Poirier, who said that’s what he and other volunteers consider the deceased. “One veteran’s ashes stayed in storage in North Carolina for over 19 years. The family had paid to cremate him, but never bothered to claim him. No family members even showed up for the funeral.”
Poirier says the work that MIAP does can often seem endless.
“I’ve been doing this four years and it never gets old, but the road never seems to have an end,” Poirier said. “The most veterans we’ve found at once was 1,300 sets of remains between two Florida funeral homes.” He said the most he’s personally helped find at a single location was 75.
While MIAP can always use donations from individuals and funeral homes, the organization most needs dedicated volunteers. Poirier said he is tasked with personally training each volunteer himself.
“Anyone interested in helping out should visit our website at www.miap.us and click on the Supporter Registration link,” said Poirier. Potential volunteers can also email Poirier at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Poirier directly at 770-377-2377.
MIAP has two volunteers in Floyd County in Edward Codding and Jim Parker, but could always use more in Rome and elsewhere around Northwest Georgia.
Initial volunteer training can take anywhere between an hour and three hours, depending on the trainee’s computer and internet abilities.
Donations can be made through the organization’s website at miap.us/Donation.html, or can be mailed to United Community Bank, 117 Highway 515 East, Blairsville, GA 30512, Attn: Missing in America Project/ Veterans Recovery Program.