By: Jackson Hughes
INDIANAPOLIS— Fallen Hoosier heroes are now more likely to be properly laid to rest, even if they are unclaimed, thanks to a new law.
The General Assembly passed Senate Bill 145 earlier this year and will take effect July 1.
Sen. Jim Banks, R-Colombia City, co-authored the legislation and said the bill creates a specific volunteer process for funeral homes to follow when an unclaimed veteran passes away. The Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs is required to call participating funeral homes to see if any are willing to host the unclaimed veteran’s funeral.
“The bill creates a framework for a volunteer process that funeral home directors can participate in,” Banks said. “I know that a case occurred last year in Indianapolis for Billy C. Aldridge, and about 1,000 people from the community attended.”
Banks was contacted by an out-of-state organization working to improve the process for unclaimed veteran funerals across the country.
“This effort was passed in 25 other states due to an effort by The Missing in America Project, which is a nation wide project with efforts to give unclaimed veterans a more respectful process in taking care of their remains,” Banks said. “They approached me to work on a bill for Indiana, as did General Bauerle, who is the legislative chairman for the Military Veterans’ Coalition of Indiana.”
After Banks agreed to head the effort, he worked closely with the Indiana Funeral Directors Association to help craft the volunteer process.
“[The Indiana Funeral Directors Association] provided significant input into the process by allowing for funeral homes to be able to freely volunteer their services,” Banks said.
Along with serving as an Indiana senator, Banks is an active military man, serving as a U.S. Navy Reserve supply corps officer.
“Unquestionably this is a step toward improvement in veterans’ treatment here in Indiana,” Banks said. “I am glad that Gov. Pence signed this bill into law, and I am proud to have been able to be a part of it.”
Jackson Hughes is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.