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Fallen Iowa Veterans Honored at Funeral Ceremony Held by Community

IOWA  --  A funeral held on Friday honored three Iowa veterans who passed away years ago but were not claimed by any family members. Instead, Hamilton's Funeral Home held a ceremony and invited Iowans to stand in as family.

Veterans and other citizens attended the event to honor John Fernandez, Raymond Hines, and James Watson, whose stories unfortunately are not unique.

"Today's service was an attempt to honor three men who served their country honorably and had one thing in common: at the end of their life, they had no family," said Reverend David Clark.

Hines shined shoes, Fernandez was a taxi driver, and Watson--who lived in Des Moines and died in 2003--was awarded a medal for service in the Korean War.

The veterans' cremated remains were given an honor procession at the Iowa Veterans Ceremony, where a man from an organization called Missing in America estimated there are around 250,000 such veterans, unclaimed by family in America.

"It's the story of the veteran who survived, who came home, probably had a family, became dysfunctional, and became alienated," said Duane Avey, of Missing in America.

"I didn't know these men, but what I do know is that each one of them honorably served our country. I knew I needed to do something," said Lanae Strovers with Hamilton's Funeral Home.

On Saturday, flags will fly at half staff for an Iowan who died in the attack at Pearl Harbor. Seaman First Class Leon Arickx of Mitchell County was killed when the USS Oklahoma sank in 1941. His remains were finally identified in January, and he will be laid to rest on Saturday in Osage.