Grave markers found in vacant house are returned to rightful owners.


Omaha police made an unexpected discovery in a vacant house when they found 11 military markers. An investigation resulted in few details as to how the markers got there, and only three were even legible. However, investigators did learn that the men on the legible markers were World War II veterans who were buried in the same cemetery in Knoxville, Tenn. Families of two of the men were found and contacted.

When VFW Post 10785 members heard about the markers they wanted to make sure these veterans were properly honored. They felt the best way to do this was to formally present the markers to the family members.

“Once I heard that the grave markers had been found, it was obvious to me that this was something our Post could handle and, more importantly, should handle. Post 10785 was founded for one reason – to serve veterans and their families,” explained Senior Vice Commander Bill O’Donnell.

“I called the police and followed up with an email expressing our willingness to get the markers to Knoxville,” O’Donnell continued. The police readily agreed to O’Donnell’s request.

The Post then contacted a local moving company to help transport the headstones. The company agreed to donate their services to the project, and O’Donnell found drivers who volunteered to take the markers to Knoxville.

Before the departure, Post 10785 performed a ceremony to honor the veterans. The Honor Guard conducted a flag folding ceremony and placed the flags atop each grave marker for the trip to Knoxville. As the markers were loaded on the truck, VFW and POW-MIA flags were lowered in salute, and a rank of Post 10785 comrades saluted them.

When the grave markers arrived in Knoxville, Tennessee District 2 Commander Gary Laymance and other local VFW members picked up where Post 10785 left off.

Laymance performed a ceremony for the families in which they were presented the markers with honor and dignity. VFW members knew this was important to the families and to the men’s honor.

“These men were warriors, comrades in arms from the Greatest Generation. It doesn’t matter where they were from or when they served – they are our comrades as surely as the VFW members who attend our Post meetings today,” explained O’Donnell.

The project was a huge success, and O’Donnell says it was an absolute joy to work on. “These folks committed to doing whatever was needed to make this event happen. It was truly a team effort among people, who for the most part, had never met,” he said.



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