After nine years, the remains of a local Marine veteran are in the process of being laid to rest at a VA National Cemetery, thanks to a local woman who made it her mission to identify him and his service. Nelsy Andros works at the Boca Raton Housing Authority where the box holding the ashes of Irby LaVerne Swatsell has been since 2014.
Andros says in 2014, an assisted living facility owned by the Housing Authority was sold. Inside the unit of a recently passed resident at that facility was the box of Swatsell’s remains, along with a small flag, a gold cross and a certificate from the crematory. “They did a lot of research trying to find next of kin, and no next of kin was found,” Andros said.
The certificate from the crematory indicated Swatsell died in 2004 when he was 56. “I did some research back a few years ago to no avail,” she said. “I couldn’t find any background on who he was or where he served. So, he sat in the office still.”
When the Housing Authority was getting painted recently, she moved Swatsell’s remains to her office and began researching once again.
“I found out that Irby was a Marine; served in Vietnam and was in the 1st Battalion 7th Marine regiment,” she shared. It became her mission to find a final resting place for his ashes, so she called Roy Foster, the founder of the Stand Down House in Lake Worth.
“We are addressing the family issues,” Foster said. “We are addressing the kid issues. Any of the issues a family has that homelessness plays a big part.” Foster, an Army veteran himself, started the veteran-focused charity about 20 years ago.
“When I heard about this situation, I said we are going to deal with this, and we are not going to prolong this,” he said. “We are going to get that veteran in a place where he deserved to be.” Foster is now working with the Missing in America Project to validate that the remains are that of Swatsell and validate his service.
“This is what it’s about,” he said. “This is what life is for me now. We are a band of brothers.”
After the validation process is complete, Swatsell will be laid to rest at a VA National Cemetery, something Foster intends on seeing through to the end.
“When you step off the bus to go into basic training, this is where it all begins because it is instilled, driven and reinforced that you are no longer one; you are part of something much larger,” he said. “You are part of a unit that is much larger.”
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