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Unclaimed veteran receives final farewell

St. Louis veterans and the BJC community came together to pay respects to a Vietnam veteran with no loved ones.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis veterans and the Barnes Jewish Hospital community came together to give a proper burial for a veteran with no known loved ones.

The Navy veteran died while in the care of Barnes Jewish Hospital in 2021. The Office of Decedent Affairs unsuccessfully spent six months looking for loved ones he left behind.

They did find a loving veteran community here in St. Louis willing to stand in to say a final farewell to the man who fought in Vietnam and served from 1967 until 1972.

"We are here to support him today as he had no family," said Neil "Nitehawk" Hill, a member of Patriot Guard. "He had no family to lay him to rest. It's what we do, make sure every veteran has a dignified transfer of remains and body to their final ride. All veterans sign their names on the dotted line. They are committed to protecting our country, our freedoms. They are entitled to a dignified burial."

The riders escorted the cremated remains from Barnes Jewish Hospital down to Jefferson Barracks Cemetery. 

"When people leave the military the one thing they missed the most is those who served by their side," said Master Sargent David Rogers, Air Force Reserve/BJC Veterans Connect. "We never leave a comrade behind and that’s true even after we hang up the uniform."

Chandra White manages the healthcare network's Office of Decedent Affairs which was established in 2018. During that time she said there have been 30 unclaimed people, only two have been veterans. 

"Make sure you stay in touch with your families so when the time comes they are there to represent loved ones," White said. 

Nonetheless, she was honored to fill in as family and receive the veteran's flag.

"To be able to support this veteran as all of us did today to receive that flag was very touching, all of us were teary-eyed," White said.

If his family surfaces, BJC said they would be honored to present them with his flag.

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