Missing In America Project members journey to Arlington

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COLUMBIA - Members from the Missing in America Project (MIAP) stopped in Columbia tonight for dinner before finishing the rest of their trip to Virginia.

The members travelled into Columbia to the American Legion on motorcycle with a goal in mind: to put to rest six veterans at the Arlington National Cemetery. The journey started in Redding, California, August 23, and other MIAP members from Arizona met the group in Colorado. The six veterans belonged to each branch of service, and one was a Buffalo soldier who served during World War II. Two of the veterans were women, and one was a Silver Star Recipient.  

The founder of the program Fred Salanti started the program and launched it nationwide in January 2007. According to its website, the mission of the program is to locate, identify and bury the unclaimed cremains of American Veterans, but for Salanti it means much more.

"I go at it more for the reason that I did lots of things in the war that maybe I'm not the proudest of... this is payback," said Salanti. "We have to honor, and our motto is you're not forgotten."

Thanks to the MIAP task force, more than 2,600 veterans are now at peace, and MIAP is currently researching more than 11,000 veterans to find their families and identities.

"These guys are sitting on the back of a shelf, some of them in a place that is loaded with spiders," Salanti said. "Why wouldn't we want to do it? We do it because it's a mission from the heart." 

The journey to the destination has had many setbacks. A couple of motorcycles broke down on the side of the road before reaching Columbia. Salanti and motorcyclists spent more than four hours on the side of the road. The broken motorcycles are being towed the rest of the way.

The current trip will end August 31 in Arlington, Virginia, and the official burial will be held on September 1.