Three men who served their country were laid to rest Wednesday in Beaufort. But this military funeral was different because no one who attended had ever met them, or knew them.
The three veterans all were “unclaimed’, meaning that no family had come forward since their deaths to claim the bodies.
The veterans’ names are:
- Frank J. Remeikis, a World War II veteran who died Feb. 27, 2007, at age 89
- Wesley Allen Jones, a Vietnam veteran who died March 5, 2007, at age 53
- Walter Boyd Hall, a Vietnam veteran who died Aug. 24, 2012, at age 62
A ceremony was planned for Beaufort National Cemetery on Wednesday, set up by Berkeley and Colleton county veterans groups, as well as “Wreaths Across America”. Posts were made on social media, asking for people to come out and pay their respects.
Many people were looking and listening. More than 100 people came to the ceremony at the graveyard.
“I’ll tell you this was a surprise,” said John Wallace, the Commander of American Legion Post 93 in Walterboro. “We thought our little contingent of three organizations and people were going to dominate this. But when we got here and saw the number of cars and motorcycles and people, my heart just went like that, it was great.”
A great show of support for three soldiers that no one knew. No family, no one to give them a proper burial.
The call went out that this would be their day, asking for their military “family” to be the ones to say goodbye.
“We don’t know how they died, but we do know one thing,” explains Pastor Bill Massey, who’s from Summerville, SC, and a veteran himself. “Sometime in their young life, they raised their right hand to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. when they said those words you know and I know they were willing to sacrifice their lives for our country.”
A sacrifice that didn’t go unnoticed by those who may have served near them, or the next generation of current and former military, all on hand on this day to honor their fellow fallen hero. Some current and former veterans and active service members even brought their children, possible future soldiers, naval officers and airmen themselves.
“They served us selflessly, and I think we should teach them to honor people who are willing to do that,” explains Heather Franklin, a veteran who brought her two daughters and one of their friends to the ceremony. “And I told my girls that no one should be buried alone.”
The rifles for the 21 gun salute go off. The flags that were once draped over the cremation boxes are now handed over to veterans who held on tight. Showing their respect for these men, their battles, their service, and their lives.
Making sure for at least this day, their last day, they would not be alone.
The men will be interred at the Beaufort National Cemetery.