A woman who’s ashes were left with the Grays Harbor County Coroner’s Office will now be buried with full military honors in the Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington D.C.. County Coroner Lane Youmans recently wrote “It is rare for any good news to come from the Coroner’s Office. We help provide answers to families when a loved one passes away unexpectedly, locate sometimes long separated next of kin to notify them of a death, and help identify the unidentified. We do our best to provide some measure of closure to families, but it is rarely good news.
On January 11th, 2011, Shirley MacNaughton passed away after a long illness at the age of 57. Her family was unable to afford the funeral expenses at that time, so the County can provide funds for cremation if there is no next of kin, or for indigent cases, with the cremated remains going to the Coroner’s Office. Shirley’s daughter, Heather Kalda, vowed she would save up the money to pay the cremation costs and claim her mother’s ashes.
In late 2014, Youmans said their office was contacted by Tom Keating, who is a volunteer with the Missing in America Project. The program locates cremains from the unclaimed and indigent cases held by Coroner’s offices, of veterans who had received an honorable discharge, and will take them to a local National Cemetery like Mt. Tahoma in Kent, give them full military honors, and inter them with the other veterans. Youmans gave Tom Keating a list of unclaimed and indigent cases, and after some research, was told that five were veterans who would qualify, including Shirley MacNaughton. Shirley served in the US Air Force from 1971 to 1973, and in the Air Force National Guard from 1973 to 1975, attaining the rank of Sergeant. Youmans contacted Heather Kalda to tell her about the program, and she was thrilled to learn that her mother would be with other veterans at Mt. Tahoma.
But the honors didn’t stop there, Youmans said “earlier this year, I was contacted again by Tom Keating, who informed me of a special program called “ Honors at Arlington II, Sea to Shiny Sea”, where the Missing in America Project selects five of the veterans cremains from Washington State that were going to Mt. Tahoma, would instead be taken to Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington D.C..” The five cremains represent each branch of service, and Sgt. MacNaughton would be representing the Air Force. There will also be a sixth veteran, a buffalo soldier from WW 1.
Sgt. Shirley MacNaughton is presently in Redding, California, and will begin her final mission across the country with the others on August 23rd. On September 1st, 2015, at 1100 hrs, Sgt. MacNaughton and the others will receive full military honors at Arlington, where they will rest with thousands of other veterans. Heather Kalda is planning on attending the ceremony with her children, and is saving up money for the trip. She has also begun a Go Fund Me to help with expenses.