Twenty U.S. veterans whose unclaimed remains had languished for as long as three years in morgues around New York City were given full military honors during a burial at Calverton National Cemetery Saturday.
The ceremony, which included a gun salute and the playing of taps, drew more than 1,000 people, who endured freezing temperatures to pay their respects to men none of them knew.
The names of the men, who died penniless and apart from family and friends, were read aloud by John Caldarelli, a Korean War veteran and member of the American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244, who had helped arrange the burial ceremony.
Several people in attendance were the parents of Long Islanders who have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. As the ceremony ended, members of a military honor guard folded American flags that had adorned the 20 caskets and presented them to the parents.
"I can hold this flag as a mother for a veteran who did not have family here," said Chrystyna Kestler, whose son, Army 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert, was killed June 4 in Afghanistan. "That is a privilege and an honor."