GR / MA Veterans Association members visit Somerset County

A group of veterans – whose service has identified and returned thousands of deceased U.S. servicemen to their families – recently visited Somerset County.

Members of Graves registration – Association of Veterans of Mortuary Affairs, aka GR / MA Veterans Association, visited the courthouse and other notable local sites last weekend during their annual reunion. They had voted to resume their annual meeting this year, which was held from September 30 to October 2 in Somerset. County headquarters was the scheduled venue for their 2020 meeting, which was later canceled due to the pandemic.

This veterans association has around 200 members in total, said Ted Veskosky, president of the association. About 40 of these members came to Somerset for the meeting from places such as California, New York, Texas, Florida and Ohio.

Most of those present were Vietnam veterans.

“A lot of (other) military meetings were canceled, but our members voted to move forward,” Veskosky said. “We thought: what do we have to lose? After we’ve all been home for the past 18 months… we’ve all been ‘pulled’ (vaccinated) and we may not be here tomorrow. We decided to take our chances.

Veskosky, a Somerset County native who now lives in Florida, included Somerset in a short list of possible locations to hold the final meeting. The members then voted for the final destination.

Visit Somerset

Members of the GR / MA Veterans Association arrived Thursday afternoon at the Quality Inn in Somerset. That evening, Veskosky said, they held an opening ceremony and placed a wreath under the large American flag displayed near the entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

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Members of the association received a proclamation from Somerset County Commissioners on Friday and toured the County Courthouse, headed by George Kaufman, local historian and former chairman of the Somerset County Bar. Members also toured the old county jail, located next to the courthouse, and paid tribute to the memorials displayed outside the courthouse.

Veskosky said Friday’s itinerary also included the Quecreek Mine Rescue Site and the National Flight 93 Memorial, during which the members of the association laid a wreath in honor of the heroes of Flight 93.

The Saturday schedule gave members the opportunity to take sightseeing on their own before returning to the Quality Inn for their closing dinner and annual business meeting.

Who are the GR / MA veterans?

The meeting is usually held annually to recognize this group of veterans from the five branches of the military who volunteered during their military service for the task of identifying the remains and personal effects of servicemen killed in action and to return them to their families in the United States.

The logo of the Veterans Association for the registration of graves and mortuary affairs.

From 1917 to 1991, these soldiers, men and women, served under the Burial Registration Service. The name was changed to Mortuary Affairs in 1991.

There are currently over 1,400 Mortuary affairs specialists serving the nation around the world, Veskosky said.

“(The reunion is) another way to thank this group for everything they’ve done,” he said. “It takes a very special person to be able to do this job. “

Ida M. Morgan