Remains of Taos veteran deserve better


We don’t know much about Jim Lang. We do know he was born Nov. 9, 1916 in Taos and that he died Aug. 11, 1989 at the age of 72 in Washington state. His death certificate states he was Native American and that he was a U.S. Army veteran who served during World War II from May 21 1943 ( at 27 years old) until he was honorably discharged on Jan. 19, 1946.

What it wouldn’t say is that Jim Lang’s ashes were found in a box sitting in a Dumpster in Washington state.

The very idea should offend the senses of anyone who respects the service of America’s veterans. This was a man who survived nearly three years of his life defending his country, who was part of “the greatest generation,” whose remains literally wound up tossed in the trash.

“It’s uncalled for,” post quartermaster of Fernandez de Taos VFW Post 3259 Lawrence R. Vargas Sr. says, “no matter who it is — and to top it off he’s a veteran.”

At a meeting last December, Vargas said he was approached by Washington state VFW officials who had an unusual task: To take Lang home. Apparently, Lang’s final wish was to have his ashes scattered on tribal land in Taos.

Lang’s death certificate and his military record indicates that his Indian name was “White Fang” and that his father’s was “Sam Rising Sun” and his mother, “Alice Silver Willow.” However, after Vargas contacted Taos Pueblo tribal officials, he said he was told there was no record of tribal affiliation here. The scattering of cremated remains in this fashion is also outside of Taos tribal traditions, members preferring a physical burial as soon as possible after death.

Vargas now has a problem. He is hoping that someone in the Taos community might recall Lang or his family, so that he can help find a final resting place for this Native American veteran. Ultimately, though, Vargas said if no one comes forward he will bury Lang’s remains in his own family’s cemetery. Another possibility is for him to be buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

No matter what, Vargas said Lang will receive full military honors.

“Every time I pass by his remains, I say, Mr. Lang, we’re coming one step closer to put you at-ease,” Vargas said.

Anyone with information about Lang or his family is asked to call Vargas at (575) 758-1066 or contact him by mail at 523 Upper Ranchitos Road, Taos 87571.

Watch for the Thursday (Feb. 21) edition of The Taos News for more on this story.


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