FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Hundreds of people helped give four homeless veterans a proper burial.
No families came forward to claim these veterans after they died:
- US Navy, PO2 Walter Vanhorn
- Persian Gulf US Navy, SA William T Wilkes
- Vietnam US Airforce, SSGT Victor Liljo
- Vietnam US Airforce, AMN James Fortney
On Wednesday 11, a family of a different kind stepped up to give these men the funeral they deserve.
Multiple people at the service, who are also veterans, all said this is just something you do.
They said you show up for those who served our country and protected us no matter who they are because they are family.
Knowing that these people have served our country and protected us and had nobody to see them off, just bothers me.Jim Reed, Air Force Veteran
Nobody should be without a family, so as you could see from the turnout we had a pretty good family today.Gregory Weeks, Patriot Guard Riders NWA
Morris made sure there was a full-honors service surrounded by people like, Gregory Weeks, who claimed these strangers as his family.
“When we get a call, we show up, it’s what we do,” Weeks said. “Even though you are all in different services everybody is one.”
Jim Reed was also at the service.
He said it was an honor to see so many people show up especially after serving four years as a welder for the Air Force during the end of the Vietnam War.
“It was just such a blessing that people still love their vets and think of their vets,” Reed said.
Reed said he hopes more coroners will take the time to look at the unclaimed, like Morris, in a different way.
“We should never send them off without having fanfare or having someone say something on their behalf,” he said.
He said no matter what branch of service these heroes are, they deserve honor and respect till the very end.
It just means so much to me.Jim Reed, Air Force Veteran
In 2017, almost 100 homeless veterans were reported in Northwest Arkansas, according to U of A Professor Kevin Fitzpatrick.
For this very reason, Washington County Coroner Roger Morris said other coroners need to look at the unclaimed in a different way.
He said when veterans come back, some simply can’t adjust to society which can a lot of times result in them becoming homeless.
He said if corners could just take that extra step to research and see if these people are veterans, they will get the burial they deserve.
Why not give them the proper burial that they need?Roger Morris, Washington County Coroner