27 servicemen recognized during Flag Day ceremony

MENANDS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Previously forgotten in unmarked graves, 27 men were recognized for their service to the United States during times of war.

The men fought for the U.S. in the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. But when they died, their identities were unknown, and they were buried in unmarked graves at St. Agnes Cemetery.

They were forgotten until someone sent an e-mail.

“A man from Ireland sent an e-mail to our office looking for an uncle lost to his family history,” Albany Diocese Cemeteries historian Kelly Grimaldi said. “We found his uncle here in an unmarked grave.”

The lot where he was found is owned by the Albany Stratton VA Hospital. Two years later, when Grimaldi was hired as the cemetery historian, she was charged with finding out how many other men were in unmarked graves.

“I came up with a total of 27 of them,” she said.

It took six years for Grimaldi, with the help of the hospital and federal officials, to locate their military documentation. When she was struggling with getting the last three graves marked, two local citizens stepped in.

“They are true patriots,” she said. “One of them is a disabled American veteran from the Vietnam War and the other just loves our country.”

On Tuesday, all 27 men – from Poland, Austria, Lithuania, Canada, Ireland and Italy – were honored for who they were and what they did for the U.S. Donald Rutherford, retired chaplain for the Army and priest for the Albany Diocese, sad it is only fitting that they were remembered on Flag Day.

“I think we need to remember that these are great men who served our country in times when we needed them,” he said.

Even though they were remembered 60 years after their service, it is never too late.

“We are a nation that never forgets our veterans and that never has an expiration date,” Grimaldi said.

Though Grimaldi was unable to locate family members for the men, she said the community and fellow veterans are their next of kin.

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