With full honors Unclaimed vet given final salute at Florence National Cemetery
BOB SLOAN Editor
It wasn’t a large crowd, but it was enough.
There were American flags and salutes. There were reverent words and prayers. There was the always-stirring moment when Taps is played.
It was a most honorable and well-deserved ceremony for someone who wore the uniform and defended our nation.
What was missing at the funeral service held Oct. 9 at Florence National Cemetery for Boiler Technician Petty Officer Second Class Kenneth L. Ballard was family.
Ballard was an unclaimed veteran. At the age of 67, he died in Charleston County on April 1. With no family to claim his body, his remains were cremated. The coroner’s office contacted an attorney to serve as an executor for the late veteran. The attorney in turn contacted the Missing in America Project (MIA-P), a national organization whose mission is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans.
The national organization got in contact with the state representative where the veteran passed away. Larry Truax is the MIA-P state coordinator for South Carolina. Truax researched Ballard’s background as best he could and then began the process of finding a cemetery to conduct a service and inter the Navy veteran.
Little is known about Ballard except that he served in the U.S. Navy from 1970 to 1977, which included a tour in Vietnam. He was born April 21, 1952.
Truax contacted Carolyn Howard, director of the Florence National Cemetery. She quickly agreed to a ceremony with full honors. Howard, who has served as the director of the cemetery since 2012, said Ballard is the 18th unclaimed veteran to be buried or interred in Florence National Cemetery.
Howard said S.C. did not take part in the MIA-P program before she arrived from Colorado in 2012. She said that Florence is the first city in the state to hold a service for an unclaimed veteran.
“We want to lay to rest our soldiers with dignity and honor,” said Howard. “They don’t deserve to be forgotten. They deserve to be laid to rest and taken care of, and this is the place where we will do that.”
Ballard’s ashes received an escort to the cemetery from Horry County Sheriff’s Deputies. The Veterans Honor Guard of Florence oversaw the ceremony, which was attended by members of Florence Patriot Guard Riders, American Legion Riders, Rolling Thunder and members of the public.
The Rev. Kent Kendall of Florence Baptist Temple offered briefs remarks and a member of the Florence guard shared a reading on the 13 folds as the American flag was folded. The flag was then presented to a woman who served as Ballard’s mother.
Ballard’s ashes were placed in a handmade wooden container made and donated by the Greenville Woodworkers Association. They will be interred in the cemetery’s mausoleum.
Since its inception in 2007, the MIA-P has found and identified the remains of more than 3,000 veterans across the United States.
“Our job is to make sure we give him and every other unclaimed vet the honor and respect they deserve,” said Truax. “I know it’s important to him, but he cannot speak. I get to do that for him.”
For more information about the Missing in America Project, visit www.miap. us.