To each veteran who has honorably served, the nation pledges a proper burial with full military honors.
But in brown plastic urns, veterans ashes remain lost and forgotten, some of them for decades.
They're stored in funeral homes across the state, possibly by the hundreds.
Dennis Murphy represents the Washington Funeral Directors Association.
"I think it's very shameful we allowed them to be parked on a shelf and not be properly memorialized," he said.
Today, representatives of the military, funeral directors and state veterans affairs signed a first-of-its kind agreement to deliver the forgotten soldiers to their place of honor.
"These men and woman we're signing this document for were called upon to serve their country -- and they came - now it's time for the country to serve them," said Murphy.
Many funeral homes have a stock of remains of people whose families could not or would not claim them. Funeral directors worry about lawsuits if they dispose of them so they may keep the remains in perpetual storage. A sizeable percentage of them are veterans who are entitled to taxpayer-funded burials.
"These veterans don't have anyone to step up and get them to their final resting place and that's what we're going to do," said Chris Dulas the head of the Washington state chapter of the Missing in America Project, a volunteer group that has identified thousand of veterans remains nationwide.
Today's agreement encourages funeral homes to hand over records of unclaimed remains so the VA can identify the veterans among them.
The Missing in America Project wants to move things along by sending its volunteers into each of the hundreds of funeral homes in our state. It hopes to have veterans off the shelf and in their place of honor within two years.
MORE: Interested in volunteering with the WA Chapter of MIAP? Contact: Chris Dulas, MIAP Washington State Coordinator at or Rich Cesler at