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National Park Service Finds Permanent Home For Cremains Left At Vietnam Veterans Memorial

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We have an update to a story our co-host Ari Shapiro reported earlier this week. He went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where National Park Service rangers have seen an uptick of cremated remains being left behind.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Ari spoke to Barbara Otterson, who took her husband's ashes to the wall four years ago. She says James Gooderum's life was shaped by the trauma he experienced serving in the Vietnam War. After he died, she says, she wanted to leave his ashes with his brothers in arms, memorialized on the wall here in Washington.

BARBARA OTTERSON: It's the closest I could get to the place that he felt most at home.

KELLY: Over the years, the National Park Service has ended up with about 80 sets of cremains. Spokesman Mike Litterst says the Park Service isn't able to properly care for them.

MIKE LITTERST: It's not something that the Park Service can accept into our collection. But by the same token, you know, these are the remains of veterans. These are men that fought for the country, and it was very important to us to find an appropriate, dignified solution.

CORNISH: Now they have one. Yesterday the NPS announced a partnership with a group whose mission it is to inter the unclaimed remains of American veterans.

BRIGITTE CORBIN: We don't like to see any Veteran left on a shelf.

CORNISH: Brigitte Corbin is a coordinator with the Missing In America Project.

KELLY: The group will take possession of the cremated remains the National Park Service has been storing and inurn them at a cemetery in Manassas, Va.

CORBIN: We wanted them to remain as close to the wall as possible and found this private cemetery to work with us.

CORNISH: It's a five-year renewable agreement, and the Missing In America Project says it will take any future cremains left at the wall. The Park Service also reiterates in its press release that leaving human ashes at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial remains prohibited. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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