Thirteen veterans who died in recent years but whose remains were never claimed have been honored in a funeral service in northern Louisiana, as a crowd of people who didn't know them but who wanted to pay their respects looked on.
Most of the 13 veterans served in Vietnam while one fought in the Gulf War, the Caddo Parish Coroner's Office said in a news release. They ranged in age from 60 to 72 at the time of their death.
The service was the result of work by Caddo Parish Death Investigator Katrina Wright, who was asked by a nurse at a local hospital to help find the family of a veteran who had died and didn't have family to claim him. After a series of calls that yielded no solution, the veteran's remains went to the coroner's office. That left Wright feeling angry.
“I didn’t understand how this could happen to people who fought for this country,” she said in the news release.
Eventually, Wright and Christina Currington from the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs started researching other veterans whose remains had not been claimed. They tracked down discharge papers and tried to track down family members in an effort to determine whether they qualified for a military burial.
They started with 21 veterans altogether. One family claimed one of the veterans, and the women are still researching seven others.
Local television station KTBS reported that honor guards from the four branches of the military in which the veterans served were on hand for the funeral service; they gave flags to representatives from veterans organizations in the area in the veterans' memories. The cemetery director thanked those who came to pay their respects.
“I want to thank the Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas region for being the family for these warriors, for not allowing them to be buried alone, and for giving them the honor they are due,” Don Howard said, according to the television station.
The veterans who were laid to rest were: Army PV1 Mark Vincent Fox, who died Oct. 5, 2012; Army Sgt. 1st Class Ernest Roy Dill, who died May 26, 2018; Army Sgt. Perry Jenkins Jr., who died May 28, 2019; Army Spec. 4, Phillip Gregory Vogelman, who died Feb. 10, 2019; Army PV2 Charles Emmett Whittington II, who died Jan. 16, 2017; Army PFC Clifton Williams, who died June 23, 2014; Air Force Airman 1st Class Terrance Keith Hunt, who died Jan. 18, 2016; Marine Corps PFC Frances Marion Neely, who died Feb. 10, 2015; Navy Seaman James Edward Rountree, who died Aug. 5, 2016; Navy Seaman Recruit Harvey Lee Ramsey, who died Nov. 19, 2014; Navy Seaman Recruit Johnnie Ferrell Watkins, who died March 3, 2016; and Navy Seaman Recruit/Army PV1 Edward Troy Rash Jr., who died June 6, 2017.