By MINDY LUCAS
While Glenn Raymond Goff III had no known family when he died, you wouldn’t have known it by the turn out at his funeral last week.
Some 200 to 250 people attended the Vietnam veteran’s burial on Tuesday, Dec. 17, at Beaufort National Cemetery, after word spread that the 70-year-old, who died in an area nursing facility, had no family members to speak of.
From veterans and members of the military, to residents who just wanted to pay their respects, they poured in by the dozens to stand beneath the stately oaks and give the Hardeeville native a funeral befitting a soldier come home to rest.
“We’re paying back,” said Chris Swan, head of the Beaufort Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, a national organization that supports veterans and their families.
The group was notified after the Beaufort County Coroner’s office determined that Goff had served as a U.S. Army specialist in Vietnam.
Dressed in blue, members were on hand Tuesday and left blue crafted “Forget-Me-Not” flowers at the grave site. It’s a tradition that dates back to World War I when wildflowers were placed on the graves of fallen soldiers, Swan said.
“It’s a remembrance of that. We’re here for them even when they have families,” he said.
Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen and several of his staff were also on hand for the funeral.
They made phone calls and tried to locate Goff’s family but after coming up short they decided to get the word out to the community.
While it isn’t unusual for people to die without family, it does seem to be happening more and more, Allen said.
“And if we find out someone is a veteran, we work with the (Beaufort) National Cemetery and the VA to see about having them interred here,” he said.
Having people stand in for Goff’s family was important to Megan Hyatt who also attended Goff’s funeral.
“My heart led me here,” said the Beaufort resident. After spreading the news about Goff’s death, Hyatt was able to get a group of about 15 to 20 friends together, including several Marine Corps pilots.
She was impressed by the turnout from the community.
“I thought it was amazing. Very heartfelt,” she said.
Air Force veteran Justin Poole was also on hand for the funeral.
A member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, Lowcountry Chapter 34-4, Poole rode from Charleston on Tuesday morning to join others from the group who turned out to pay their respects.
Like Hyatt, he too was glad to see so many turned out to honor Goff.
“Definitely got to give him a proper send off,” he said. “It’s important to make sure that a guy who served his country, who doesn’t have family, at least has people gathering to honor his memory, to honor his service. We may not know him, but he was still our brother.”