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Ogden man questions if he has his father’s ashes after name was on list of honored, unclaimed vets

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Posted at 6:56 PM, Aug 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-05 09:03:40-04

OGDEN, Utah -- More than 20 cremated, unclaimed Utah veterans were honored with a service over the weekend. But there's a mystery why the remains of one serviceman ended up in this group.

An Ogden family saw their father's name on the list but say they have their father’s ashes.

It has been almost 15 years since the Christensen family had a memorial and put a cemetery marker down for their father. Now they're waiting to find out if the ashes buried there are actually his.

“If they're not my father’s who are they?” asked Steve Christensen.

Steve Christensen's father, Eugene Christensen, a World War II veteran with the Army Air Corps passed away in 2000 at the age of 80.

“We had his ashes placed in different urns for each of the family members,” Christensen said.

But last Friday the family saw their father was on a list to be honored by the Missing in America Project, group that works to give unclaimed vets a full military funeral.

“Not something you would expect especially after 15 years,” Christensen said.

That's when Christensen contacted MIAP and the Leavitt's Mortuary, where his father was cremated.

“At that time I knew there must be a mistake of some sort,” Christen said.

MIAP told Christensen they get the remains of unclaimed veterans from mortuaries and try to contact their next of kin.

This mix up is something Leavitt’s Mortuary has never seen before.

“We do about 500 cremations here a year. What we do is every person that is cremated this tag goes with them. It's a digital tag that goes with the body all the way into the crematory and then is placed in the urn,” said Mike Leavitt, owner and president of Leavitt Mortuary.

Mortuary officials say there are a number of things that could have happened but only time will tell.

“As soon as the urn comes back to us we'll check the tag we'll check the number then we'll be able to tell if it is their father's remains,” Leavitt said.

“I would like to see that I have my father's ashes and always have,” Christensen said.

The mortuary is waiting for the ashes. Once they have those it will be about two days before they can figure out what exactly happened.