Photo above: More than 160 people gathered on June 15 at Beaufort National Cemetery for funeral services for Raymond Thompson, 72, a Vietnam-era veteran with the U.S. Navy. Also attending was SC Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, standing at center. Photos by Bob Sofaly.
By Bob Sofaly
Beaufort showed its true compassion and patriotism when more than 160 people showed up on June 15 at the Beaufort National Cemetery to honor and pay their final respects to man they didn’t even know.
Raymond Thompson, 72, a Vietnam-era veteran, served in the U.S. Navy and achieved the rank of E-3 before being discharged.
Very little is known about his life. He died in May in the Charleston area with no family to claim his remains.
Rivers Suburban Funeral Home in Goose Creek held his body for 30 days while they tried to find his next of kin, but none could be tracked down, according to Ron Voegelli of the Disabled American Veterans.
“He died alone. But he wasn’t going to buried alone” Voegeli said.
The DAV has been burying indigent veterans for about 30 years through their Forget Me Not program, he said. Caskets are donated to the veteran and the DAV takes care of the rest.
James Johnston, of the Disabled American Veterans, said because Thompson was indigent and had no family, his flag will be used in the “Avenue of Flags” at the cemetery.
At the funeral for Thompson, many veterans groups were represented, but there was an impressive turnout of veterans and civilians alike who just wanted to pay their respects to an old veteran. Some even brought their children.
One unidentified woman with the Patriot Guard Riders color guard, while holding an American flag said, “Nobody dies alone, Nobody. Not here.”
DAV is a nonprofit charity that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families, helping more than 1 million veterans each year.
The organization provides more than 670,000 rides for veterans attending medical appointments. It also assists military veterans with more than 292,000 benefit claims annually.
In 2016, DAV helped attain more than $4 billion in new and retroactive benefits to care for veterans, their families and survivors.
DAV is also a leader in connecting veterans with meaningful employment, hosting job fairs and providing resources to ensure they have the opportunity to participate in the American Dream their sacrifices have made possible.
With almost 1,300 chapters and 1.3 million members across the country, DAV empowers veterans and their families by helping to provide the resources they need and ensuring the nation keeps the promises made to them. To donate or to learn more, visit www.dav.org.
For a video of the services for Thompson, visit www.facebook.com/theislandnews.