MIDDLETOWN — Honoring the creed that no American solder is left behind, the remains of four veterans were brought Thursday to their final resting place on a field of honor.
The ceremony, which was held at the State Veterans Cemetery off Bow Lane, recognized the service and sacrifice of a sailor and three soldiers — one of whom fought in the Spanish-American War of 1898.
No one came forward to claim the cremains of the four men.
So, under a unique agreement between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association, their urns were brought to the cemetery, where they will be placed in a columbarium.
The ceremony played out under dreary skies and a cold wind.
The loss of seven lives in the crash of the World War II B-17 heavy bomber at Bradley International Airport Wednesday further dampened people’s spirits.
As the event began, Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Thomas J. Saadi asked for a moment of silence in memory of the crash victims.
Indeed, the only thing that brightened the ceremony were the American flags held by a dozen or so Patriot Guard Riders arrayed behind the ceremony site and the thousands of smaller flags dotted across the grounds of the cemetery and ruffled by the chill wind.
The urns of the four veterans were first brought to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs campus in Rocky Hill.
Following a brief prayer, the urns, each carried in its own hearse, set out for the trip to Middletown, accompanied by members of the Patriot Guard Riders, who are a regular feature at ceremonies honoring veterans.
Two honor guards, one of soldiers from the Connecticut National Guard and the other sailors from the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, stood ready when the hearses arrived at the cemetery.
A massive garrison flag hung from the South District ladder truck as the hearses made their way slowly one-by-one up to the ceremony site.
The first hearse bore the remains of Frederick William Walters, who was born in 1874, and who served in the Signal Corps during the Spanish-American War.
Two members of the Army honor guard stepped forward as the rear door of the hearse was opened.
The first soldier retrieved a triangular-folded American flag. The second brought out a polished rectangular blue stone urn.
They brought the urn and the flag inside an open-sided tent, placing them on a table.
The process was then repeated for Edward Douglas Rudderow (1871-1959), who served in the Army during World War I.
Next came Bertram Aulton Lascalles (1888-1959), who also served in the Army during World War I.
Then came Melvin Williams Kaulfers (1926-2016), who served in the Navy during World War II.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said that even though no one had come forward to claims the remains, the four men most assuredly do have a family.
“You are their family,” he told the 50 or so veterans clustered in the tent, where they were joined by a Gold Star mother who lost her son in Iraq in 2003.
“Everyone who serves, everyone who wears the uniform, everyone who raises his or her right hand” to swear allegiance to the country and to the Constitution is a member of that family, he continued.
Like any family, “We have our disagreements,” Blumenthal said. “But we come together in our commitment to our brothers and sisters who wear the uniform.”
He urged the audience to “re-commit every day to leave no veteran behind,” whether that means helping to educate or re-train them, or to ensure they have health insurance.
And he called upon the nation “to honor every one of them in action, not just in memory.”
In his remarks, Mayor Dan Drew marveled that each of the men being honored “changed the world’s landscape in ways that are inconceivable to a lot of us.”
Saadi then posthumously awarded each man the Connecticut Wartime Service medal, placing the award beside each urn.
A red rose marked each man’s place as well.
Members of the Army Honor Guard then fired the traditional three-round rifle volley.
As the sound of the volleys subsided, Navy veteran Jonathan Worley played a slow, mournful and haunting version of “Taps.”
Back inside the tent, a sailor stepped forward to unfold an American flag, and then re-folded it into a triangle before presenting to Lt. Commander Brandon Clonch, an information warfare officer stationed in Plainville.
He in turn presented it to Saadi.
As Clonch did so, he recited the traditional speech: “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States, the Navy and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.”
The same ritual was performed by the Army Honor Guard with the flag representing the three soldiers.
Saadi asked the audience for a small favor:
“Say their names. Remember their names.”
In that way, “They’re never forgotten. And they are not forgotten.”
Frederick William Walters.
Edward Douglas Rudderow.
Bertram Aulton Lascelles.
Melvin William Kaulfers.