- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) - Four Connecticut veterans whose unclaimed cremated remains sat idle for years in a funeral home storage area were honored Wednesday with a military ceremony that officials say finally gave them the respect they earned while serving the country.

William Buell, Joseph Trantino, Howard Daniels and David Kendle died within the past 13 years, decades after their military service. Their remains went unclaimed because none of their relatives could be found.

A funeral was held in the morning at the Swan Funeral Home in Old Saybrook, where the remains had been kept. The four veterans’ ashes were in wooden boxes that were loaded into four hearses and brought to a ceremony at the State Veterans’ Cemetery in Middletown in a procession that also included state police and former military members.

A few dozen veterans, some wearing leather vests and others in suits, stood around the cemetery ceremony site holding flags while more than 100 other people looked on as officials paid tribute to the two soldiers and two sailors with prayers, speeches, a gun salute and flag-folding honors.

“They came home from war and they completed their service and they went off into their lives working hard and giving back to their communities,” said Sean Connolly, commissioner of the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs and an Army veteran of the Iraq War. “Now it’s our duty and our privilege to lay them to rest with the military honors they’ve earned and deserved.”

The ceremony was hosted by the Missing in America Project, a nonprofit that locates, identifies and buries the unclaimed remains of American veterans. Since 2007, the project has found the cremains of more than 2,600 veterans and buried more than 2,400 of them.

The unclaimed remains of 12 other Connecticut veterans have been located at other funeral homes, and a similar ceremony will be held for them in October, officials said.

Buell, of Madison, served in the Navy during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He died in 2003 at the age of 68. Kendle, of Clinton, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. He was 61 when he died in 2002.

Trantino, who lived in Middletown and Old Saybrook, served in the Army in the Pacific during World War II. He was 79 when he died in 2004. Daniels, who was born in Essex, served in the Army in Europe during World War II. He died in 2011 at the age of 87.

Their remains were to be buried later Wednesday afternoon at the veterans’ cemetery, along with state medals posthumously awarded to them.

“Not to have the final burial to send them on their way after all they’ve done for this country … I can’t see that happening,” said Robert Bailey, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War and commander of the state Veterans of Foreign Wars organization. “It’s hard to explain what the feelings are. When you get the chills, you know that the feelings are there.”

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