“Do you know them?” A very simple question. A headline among at least 20 others. I immediately stopped scrolling and started reading. Thirteen “unclaimed” homeless veterans would be laid to rest at DFW National Cemetery. Despite the efforts of the Dallas County Medical Examiner, no families had been located. These soldiers ranged in age from 46 to 84. Three Army, two Marines, five Navy and three Air Force. As I read I began to wonder about these men who had so faithfully served their country. These men whose journey ultimately found them with no place to lay their head at night and no shelter around them to call home.
Last night I read and reread their names. What I could not shake as I drifted off to sleep, and one of my first thoughts as I woke up this morning, was about the ones who one day many years ago gave each of these soldiers their names. Their stories most likely vary as much as their time and rank of service, but all of these men have parents. Many most likely are deceased, but others may still remain in this life, not knowing the story of their own child. Life is messy and complicated in so many more ways than what I can write about in this simple blog. But, today thirteen men were buried without their mothers or fathers or family by their side.
I don’t know why I felt so led to go to the service today. Maybe it is because my dad and one of my nephews served in the Army. Maybe it’s because I’ve never wanted anyone to die alone. Maybe it’s because I know the extent that the Dallas County Medical Examiner goes through to locate families. Maybe it’s because I am a mom who hopes and prays everyday that those that are closest to me know how much I love them and never feel like they are by themselves in this world. Maybe it was all of these things and even more that I have not yet identified.
As I drove into DFW National Cemetery I was speechless. The line of cars waiting in the procession stretched all the way to the entrance to the cemetery and as I looked in my rearview mirror the cars were lined up out of the gate. Tears welled up in my eyes as I said out loud, “If they only knew in this life the kind of love and respect that they are being given today.”
I have heard it said time and time again and I have worried about it myself, that as a parent whose child has died, your greatest fear is that your child will be forgotten. To the mothers and fathers of these brave soldiers, your child was remembered and honored today. Today you should be proud of your little boys who grew into men who you never stopped loving. Hundreds gathered today. Taps was played, the shots were fired, and the flags were folded, their names were spoken: Joseph David Dobson, Ned Carlston King, Dennis Wayne Moore, Edward Charles Gipson, Grant Wells, Jr., Glen Allen Galton, Patrick Michael Kelly, Daniel Ray McKinley, Michael Snyder, Elbert Louis Wilson, William Brugemann Beeson, Bobby Ray Gleason, and Jerry G. Marshall. We thank them for their service. Their lives matter. Your sons will never ever be forgotten.
“Do you know them?” I cannot say I knew them like I would have liked to, but after today, I will never forget them.