Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Bike parade delivers vets to final resting place

Washington State Veterans Cemetery to hold interment ceremony at later date


September 7, 2017

Paul Delaney

Participants stand at ease during the Aug. 30 delivery ceremony to the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake of previously unclaimed cremains of fellow service members. The remains will be given a final resting place later this year.

As a light but hot West Plains breeze rustled gently flapping flags, a distant low roar punctuated the afternoon on Aug. 30.

Soon, down Espanola Road, appeared the headlights of the motorcycles which were part of an honor guard escorting a simple SUV bringing the remains of military veterans to their final resting place.

The ceremony that concluded at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery, featured about 70 bikes rumbled through the gates. Soon after, the riders solemnly formed a line to first salute and then accept an urn with cremated remains of members of the military who will officially be interred at a yet to be announced date in the fall.

"It's pretty impressive and important to everyone that participates," Rudy Lopez, cemetery director said.

The way it works is either the cemetery takes the initiative on some of the cases, or there are veterans groups that are taking the lead, Lopez explained.

The non-profit organization, Missing in America Project, is actually contacting funeral directors, medical examiners and coroners across the country, Lopez said. They search out lists with names, social security information along with date of birth and death.

The MIA Project was launched nationwide in January 2007. According to their website volunteers from all 50 states have visited over 2,100 funeral homes, found over 15,000 remains - "cremains" as they are referred to - identified nearly 3,500 and interred some 3,200.

Next comes the research behind the scenes in the national archives to determine if they are vets, or the spouse of one. That process needs either a military ID or social security number as well as date of birth and death.

Still, "We don't necessarily know any of these veterans," Lopez said.

And that is just fine because the Washington Veterans Cemetery is not just for those who served that live within the state.

"We do not have a residency requirement," Lopez said. That enables the cemetery to take care of vets from across the state line. "We inter quite a few people from Idaho," he added.

On a more broad basis, "We have a lot of Spokaneites that have settled in other parts of the country and (in the) end of life they want to come back here; this is where their roots are," Lopez said. "It allows them to reconnect and gives that family the visitation."

As for the motorcycle escort, there just seems to be an affinity between vets and motorcycles, Lopez said.

"It goes way back to the American Legion many, many, many years ago," he said.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders escort the SUV transporting the cremains of members of the military prior to an Aug. 30 ceremony at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake.

"They were one of the first to find a motorcycle club within the American Legion," known as the American Legion Riders.

When the Westboro Baptist Church started their protests of a variety of events, particularly burials of veterans, a number of riders had spun off of the American Legion group. Those include the Patriot Guard Riders, Combat Vet Riders and Combat Vets International. The Patriot Guard provided a barrier between the Westboro protests and families at services.

The latest arrivals will have a new home amongst the nearly 3,700 cremation chambers at the cemetery, which was opened in 2010. A $2.18 million grant will expand the niches on the 120-acre site that also includes traditional burial plots.


Washington State Veterans Cemetery

Missing in America Project

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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