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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Veterans & Archives, My Letter to Governor Deal

10 October 2012

Governor Nathan Deal
Suite 203, State Capitol
206 Washington Street
Atlanta GA 30334

Dear  Governor Deal,

I have the deepest respect for anyone who puts on a uniform and is prepared to defend the rights and freedoms of the citizens of this great nation of ours. Your Georgian roots run deep, and you have a long history of service to your state and your country, via the military, the judicial system, and your long political career. You’ve been one of the lucky ones to live the American dream. An education, a beautiful family, and a fulfilling career have all found their way on to the timeline of your life.

Unfortunately, many of the men and women who place an American uniform on their backs do not end up living the American dream, their lives turn into the American nightmare. Veterans make up 11% of the adult population in our country and 25% of the homeless population. Many homeless veterans die alone and forgotten, and don’t receive the honor and military burial that they deserve. All too often their families never know what happened to them.

Across America the forgotten cremated remains of our veterans are sitting on the storage shelves of funeral homes. Some of them have been there for decades. Veterans organizations such as the Missing In America Project are researching the unclaimed cremains of funeral homes, identifying which ones are veterans and arranging military burials for them. Forensic genealogists at organizations such as Families For Forgotten Heroes go to work and identify the living next of kin of these veterans to notify them of the death and burial of their hero. The story of a veteran's life is not complete until they have received their military burial and their families have been found.

Deceased homeless veterans also end up in the morgues of Coroners and Medical Examiners. The issue of the unclaimed dead (civilian and veteran) is experiencing increasing numbers. This has caused a huge burden on tax payer dollars, as counties must take over the responsibility of the expense of burial when families can’t be found. A group of volunteer forensic genealogists at Unclaimed Persons assist coroners and medical examiners with finding the next of kin of unclaimed deceased people, so that families can be notified and make arrangements for the burial of their loved one.

Forensic Genealogists also assist JPAC - Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, with their mission of accounting for Americans lost during past U.S. conflicts. When the remains of our missing American heroes are found, the remains are sent to the JPAC lab in Hawaii. Forensic Genealogists assist JPAC by identifying living next of kin of these heroes, so that DNA samples may be taken to match families with the remains. It’s a very emotional experience, to see a widow or a child of our military from past conflicts finally receive the closure they have longed for!

Forensic Genealogists can not do the work they do without access to records and documents. I have been following the story of the closing of the Georgia State Archives with great interest. The closing of those archives will inhibit the ability to find the families of the above mentioned veterans, when they or their families have ties to Georgia.

On behalf of those veterans, I implore you to find the means to keep the Georgia State Archives open to the public for the rest of this year, and in January work with the leaders of your state to find additional funding to return the archives to being open at least 5 days per week.


Look into the eyes of yourself, the soldier from a few years ago. One nasty twist of fate, could have turned your life from the American Dream to the American Nightmare. You could have ended up as one of those unclaimed, unhonored, forgotten heroes. PLEASE help us keep access to the treasures in your state archives, so that forensic genealogists can continue their work to return each and every soldier of our country to their families!

Sincerely Yours,

Kim “Skip” Murray
Genealogy Team Leader (Retired), Research Volunteer - Families For Forgotten Heroes
Co-Director (Retired), Research Volunteer - Unclaimed Persons
8807 Gwynn Lane
Brainerd, MN 56401

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To those of you who are checking out my blog, if you wish to help in the efforts to save public access to the Georgia Archives, here are some resources you might find helpful:

Friends of Georgia Archives & History

Georgians Against Closing State Archives

Petition to save the archives

Occupy Genealogy

Need ideas on how to write a letter? Check out these examples!