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Lancaster County forensic officials identify veterans among unclaimed individuals

EAST HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY, P.A. --- Three men, each representing a separate branch of the military, will be buried at Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery on Thursday at 11 a.m.

Richard Wardell, 58, died on August 8, 2008.

He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Henry Leed, Jr, 69, died on July 3, 2017.

He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

William Warmkessel, 59, died on November 17, 2014.

He served in the U.S. Air Force.

The service of these men, however, almost went unnoticed.

In early October, the Lancaster County Coroner's Office prepared a formal burial for 60 unclaimed individuals.

Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said they started to suspect a few of them may need a more proper ceremony.

"We began getting leads that they may have been veterans. So, we did not inter their remains. We kept their remains," said Dr. Diamantoni.

While they knew who the individuals were, he said hey couldn't confirm they were veterans.

He explained that veterans, who are honorably discharged, must file paperwork with Veteran's Affairs.

However, these individuals in question did not.

Further research was needed.

"I think the staff took great time and effort to make many phone calls and gather as much information as possible," said Dr. Diamantoni.

Their work payed off when V.A. officials confirmed the three military veterans

Lancaster County officials organized the event for the men, which will include a service from a former Navy chaplain along with full military honors.

"Certainly, veterans have that feeling that they want to make sure that honor and respect is paid to fellow veterans. But I think our whole community really does and we want to make sure that happens from them on Thursday," said Commissioner Joshua Parsons.

A procession will start at 9:30 in the morning at the Lancaster County Forensic Center in East Hempfield Township.

The bodies will, then, be brought to Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery for the service at 11.

Officials say anyone in the public in welcome to attended either or both events.

They recommend getting to the Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery service at 10:30 a.m.