By Karen Pulfer Focht
Memphis, Tenn. –On a bleak mid-winter Thursday morning in Memphis, Tenn. three veterans were buried with honors; but with no family members present.
The men all died in the fall but no one ever stepped forward to claimed their remains.
What could have been a very lonely funeral service was attended by hundreds of community members that packed the West Tennessee Veterans Cemetery. Cars lined up and down Forest Hill Irene Road, waiting to get in even as it started.
Veterans and soldiers created a sacred space for the caskets to pass through. They saluted each casket as it passed by.
An overflow crowd stood out in the rain. A few lucky people who arrived early sat in chairs inside the rotunda in front of the three caskets. They listened to taps. Amazing Grace was played on the bagpipes and there was a gun salute. Many people, forced to stand in the rain outside, strained to hear the service where guests sniffled and cried as they thought of the soldiers who served our country and then died alone.
Leading the service, Memphis Funeral Home director Gary Taylor remembered the call he got December 31, 2018. He was told of three men, “all who were honorable veterans who proudly served the nation that we all love, with no one to claim them as their own.”
He thanked the Patriot Guard Riders, “thank you for your willingness to escort your brothers to their place of rest.”
He continued, “Thank you for answering this call, the call to bring your brothers home.” He addressed the crowd, “to each one of you here today, thank you for your presence. Thank you for answering a call, the call to claim these men as your own. We are all here today to render honor to whom honor is due; three men, three soldiers, three Americans, three hero’s.
The three men who were honored were Wesley Russell, 76, Arnold Klechka, 71 and Charles Fox, 60.
A moment of silence followed and the fallen warriors prayer was spoken. The flags that covered the casket were respectfully and deliberately folded. With no family present to accept the flags, the flags were then passed through out the crowd. Attendees cried, clutched, and kissed the flag and held them with reverence and dignity.
Taylor finished, speaking to the caskets he said “today, we salute you, today we all claim you as our own. “
Jan. 17, 20019 © Karen Pulfer Focht