A volunteer buries an unclaimed Colorado Navy veteran

(Tribune News Service) – Sixty years after the end of his military service, a Colorado Navy veteran has been properly buried thanks to the efforts of Longmont resident Harlan Olson.

Olson is a volunteer with the Missing in America Project, a national organization dedicated to recovering the unclaimed cremated remains, or cremains, of military veterans. In 2020, he discovered that Northern Colorado Crematorium in Greeley had a veteran on the crematorium’s list of unclaimed remains: LeRoy Myers.

Through Olson’s approximately eight-week research, he found that Myers had served in the US Navy from 1959-1962. Myers was fully identified by August 2020, but Olson withheld a formal funeral until social distancing regulations imposed by the pandemic wore off.

“We wanted[Myers]to have all the military honors,” he said.

Myers’ bodies were taken to Denver’s Fort Logan National Cemetery last month and buried there. The funeral included a 21-gun salute and was attended by Mike Shults, the Colorado state coordinator for the Missing in America project, who was flown from Grand Junction.

Myers died in 2019 at the age of 85, but Olson was unable to locate any of Myers’ relatives. Olson said that this made him Myers’ legal next of kin under Colorado law, resulting in him and his wife Janelle keeping Myers’ cremains at their home for a few months before the funeral.

Olson served in the Army Security Agency, the US Army’s now defunct signals intelligence branch. During the Vietnam War in the early 1960s – right out of high school – he was hired to listen to radio broadcasts.

“I had never heard of Vietnam,” he said.

Each year, Harlan and Janelle Olson participate in Run for the Wall, a cross-country motorcycle journey that begins in California and ends at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. Harlan Olson was honored with a salute from his fellow cyclists during one of the trips a few years ago; Due to the secretive nature of the Army Security Agency, this could not have happened sooner.

“It took me 47 years to be welcome home,” he said.

Harlan Olson escorted Myers Cremains from Longmont to Denver on his motorcycle along with members of the Longmont-based American Legion Post 32 and the Patriot Guard Riders of Colorado. He said the funeral was satisfying and felt special. Janelle Olson agreed, pleased with the closure it brought.

“This man has served, so he deserves this honor,” she said.

(c)2022 the Daily Times-Call (Longmont, Colorado)

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