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Local veteran’s personal mission leads to proper send-offs for 3 service members

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Pa. — “No man left behind” is the phrase that motivated a Washington County man to identify and then provide the proper burial for three service members: a Vietnam veteran and two brothers who served in World War II, one of whom is a Tuskegee Airman.

“For a person in the army, we have a soldier’s creed. I’ll never leave a fallen comrade, they are fallen, and we left them,” said Miles Glotfelty, a Washington County resident, and fellow veteran.

This spring, veteran Glotfelty set out on a mission to connect fallen veterans with their families and to provide them with proper burials. One of those servicemen was Aubrey Higginbotham, a World War II veteran, and Tuskegee Airman.

“That is a big part of history for the United States military,” Glotfelty said.

The Tuskegee Airmen were America’s first Black military airmen. They served with honor in the early 1940s during a difficult time in the nation’s history.

“Washington County has a total of about 100-125 unclaimed remains,” Glotfelty explained.

And for 28 years Higginbotham’s remains sat unclaimed, but he wasn’t alone.

“If there is one vet then there has got to be more,” Glotfelty said.

“Actually, we got two brothers... we got Aubrey and Lewis Higginbotham,” said Washington County Commissioner, Larry Maggi.

Aubrey Higginbotham’s brother Lewis Higginbotham was also an unclaimed veteran. The two brothers, along with Vietnam veteran Joseph Calhoun will all finally be laid to rest and reconnected with their families.

“I didn’t think this would happen like this, but it sent chills through me…” said William Smith Sr.

William Smith Sr., 84, is the nephew of Aubrey and Lewis Higginbotham. As a veteran himself, he said finally having the opportunity to honor his uncles is priceless.

“They took care of me through everything,” Smith said, recalling his childhood memories.

County officials told Channel 11 News they are honored to be a part of this historic ceremony. County Commissioner Maggi said Aubrey Higginbotham will be the first Tuskegee Airman from Washington County to be buried at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.

“I think we need it incumbent upon us to recognize that and to honor these men,” Maggi said.

The three veterans’ final resting place will be here at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.

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