WRIGHTSTOWN – Governor Jon S. Corzine today signed legislation
that will allow veterans’ service organizations to receive the cremated remains of veterans for a proper burial if they
remain unclaimed after one year.
“Every veteran who served and defended our nation deserves the dignity of a proper burial,”
said Governor Corzine. “This law ensures that all veterans are honored with the respect and dignity owed them by the
State of New Jersey and the United States .”
The bill, A2613/S1579, allows veterans’ service organizations
to receive cremains from funeral homes if unclaimed after one year. The veterans’ organization would have to certify, to
the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, that a diligent effort was made to identify, locate and
notify a relative or friend of the deceased within that one-year period.
Roman P. Niedzwiedz, a decorated Vietnam veteran who was one of the earliest and most outspoken advocates for
the legislation, called the bill signing a victory for all veterans.
“This bill means that no veteran will be forgotten,” said Niedzwiedz,
the 1st Vice President of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 899 in Bordentown.
The legislation requires the cremated
remains to be scattered at sea or disposed of on land in a dignified manner at the Brig. General William C. Doyle Veterans
Cemetery in Wrightstown. A group of
volunteers from a number of the veterans’ organization will serve on the New Jersey Mission of Honor Cremains
Committee, which will coordinate the transfer of the cremains.
is particularly important that we do all we can to ensure that fallen service men and women are honorably received,”
said Assemblyman Jack Conners (D-Burlington), chairman of the Assembly Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. “Ensuring
in the very least that an honorable veterans’ organization is available to receive the cremains of every deceased New
Jersey veteran is the least we can do to give a proper farewell for all service members who have sacrificed for our country.”
where the remains are to be buried at the Doyle Veterans Cemetery, the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMAVA) will play a key role in ensuring that
the cremains are, in fact, that of a veteran, said Col. (Ret.) Stephen G. Abel, the Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Affairs.
Abel said DMAVA will work with veterans’ groups to ensure that all documents related to the military
service record of the deceased are in order, as is required for interment in the Doyle Cemetery , the busiest state-operated
veterans’ cemetery in the United States .
“In doing that, we can guarantee that the veteran is laid
to rest with proper military honors,” Abel said. “We also will know the veterans cemetery is maintained as a place
have an obligation to ensure that the brave men and women who have donned a uniform to protect the freedoms of our nation
are treated with every ounce of dignity and respect we can muster,” said Assemblyman Matthew Milam ( D-Cumberland /Atlantic/
Cape May). “By ensuring veterans’ organizations can claim the cremains of New Jersey’s fallen heroes, we
can guarantee that they will be well-received and that their memory and service will always be honored.”
“This is the right thing to do
for those who have served and sacrificed for our country,” said Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez
(D-Camden). “It’s painful to think that a veteran could go unclaimed and not be given a dignified farewell, and
this ensures that now will not happen.”
“Today's legislation allows those who died in the service of our country to be
given a proper burial,” said Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk (R-Bergen). “We
owe them a debt of gratitude that
can never be repaid. Trusting our veterans’ organizations with ensuring a proper burial will provide
the closure to which they are entitled.”
In addition to the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, other veterans’
organizations that supported the legislation include the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, American Veterans, Catholic War Veterans, Jewish
War Veterans and the Marine Corps League.
“The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much in
defense of their country should be given a proper and honorable burial,” said Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “However, when family
members or loved ones cannot be reached, many times the cremated remains of these service-people are left forgotten on shelves,
sometimes for years. This new law guarantees that, in cases when loved ones cannot be contacted, that veterans’
organizations within the state will step in to give their fallen comrade appropriate final honors.”
this legislation, New Jersey joins a handful of states that have passed laws to ensure proper military burials for unclaimed
cremains. In 2007, Connecticut enacted similar legislation.
“As the generation of Americans
who lived through and fought in World War II gets older, it’s becoming more and more
common for veterans to pass away without any identifiable next of kin,” said Senator Fred Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden).
“Rather than turn our backs on deceased veterans, we should ensure that they receive a burial fitting with their service
to this country. This law gives veterans organizations, which have an established history of serving returning servicemen
and women, the ability to honor the dedication and service of the deceased.”
Primary sponsors of the legislation in the Assembly were Assemblymen
Jack Conners (D-Burlington) and Mathew Milam ( D-Cumberland /Atlantic/ Cape May), and Assemblywomen
Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden) and Charlotte
Vandervalk (R-Bergen). Primary sponsors in the Senate were Senators Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic)
and Fred Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden).