Bucks Staffer Teams Up with Local Vet to Address Unclaimed Remains of Veterans


Tyler Creighton

There is an unspoken crisis in this country of veterans dying alone and without anyone claiming their remains. Dan Kholbek, local Marine Corps veteran and founder of Project NAGA and Flowers-for-Eva hopes to fix these problems.

Project NAGA (Never Again Grieve Alone) is a non-profit organization that has formed to gather the life story and accomplishments of veterans. Citizens can unite online or in public for events, discussions, education, recognition, and recruitment or even have the opportunity to visit with veterans one-on-one.

A large part of Project NAGA is dedicated to visiting lonesome veterans in hospice care, who have either outlived their families and friends or have become estranged from them.

It is a primary goal of Kholbek and Project NAGA to minimize these solitary deaths, to honor the individuals who have served, and to hear their stories.

While working on Project NAGA, Kholbek became aware of an often-overlooked issue facing the nation; the unclaimed remains of veterans (17 in Washington Crossing alone).

One of the 17 was a female African-American Navy Veteran Eva Binns – whom Flowers-for-Eva is named after. As he researched her life, Kholbek was amazed at the accomplishments a woman of color was able to achieve in a pre-civil rights era. He was also shocked that no one claimed her remains, that is why he decided to start Flowers-for-Eva.

Flowers-for-Eva is a project designed to honor and share the life stories of unclaimed veterans. A website for the project flowers-for-eva.org is scheduled to launch on Veterans Day.

Flowers-for-Eva has already become a national project with multiple institutes of higher education across the country getting involved, including Bucks.

Kholbek has been working with Dr. Jan Cook Ed.D an information representative at Bucks, as well as Deborah Riccardi of the arts department, to recruit students to get involved with Flowers-for-Eva at Bucks.

Cook says, “There is really something to be gained from the project, lessons learned, a true win-win scenario.” Getting involved not only honors the legacy of unclaimed Veterans, but also the individual involved may gain valuable insights.

Riccardi has recruited some students from Bucks, as well as the Valley Forge Military Academy to work on pieces of art to commemorate and memorialize the lives of those veterans who have been forgotten and unclaimed.

There is still a need for researchers and writers to contribute to the project, as it is still in the beginning stages of its formation. Kholbek emphasized, “the tremendous opportunity, to see the inner workings of a non-profit organization, as well as the opportunity to add such experience to a résumé.”

Another goal Flowers-for-Eva has set out to achieve is the education of health care professionals to inquire about their patient’s potential veteran status, as veterans are often offered free funeral services with military honors.

Inquiring the status of patients in the health care field could prevent the bodies of deceased patients from sitting in a coroner’s office waiting to be claimed.

Students looking to get involved with the Flowers-for-Eva project at Bucks, can contact Dr. Jan Cook at:  [email protected]