A veteran who served our country for six-years died of pneumonia in a hospital alone. Eight months have passed and no one has claimed his body. Thursday, he was given a funeral with honors. His casket was surrounded by volunteers who took the place of his family.
Thursday morning, members of the patriot guard assembled at a church in North Austin.
"We come out to support the family,” said Don Cormier, CenTex Patriot Guard Riders.
When there is no family, the drive to show up is even greater.
"It's kind of sad that he doesn't have any family and so we are going to step in and be that family for him today,” Robert Stancil, Austin Area Patriot Guard Riders.
The men and women, along with police, provided the funeral escort for unclaimed soldier 38-year-old Richard Lee Anderson. He served in the Navy from 1996-2002.
Affordable Burial and Cremation Service Owner Robert Falcon lead the procession carrying Anderson's body in a flag-draped coffin.
Since last spring Falcon has searched for Anderson's family.
"This gentleman passed away in March in a hospital in Temple. Laid there for a month and after that period of time the hospital reached out to us because they're very aware of our unclaimed and homeless veteran program so we immediately reached out to the VA to get some information about him and see where we could locate family. At such a young age we thought that we would have no problem with trying to locate family and unfortunately it's just been very unsuccessful,” said Falcon.
But Falcon knew what to do. With the assistance of the patriot guard, a funeral service was arranged at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.
"Father God, we lift up to you today Richard Anderson. Ask you to bring him home, Comfort him and be his family in heaven,” prayed Austin Area Patriot Guard Riders Captain Keith Longacre. "Father God, we ask you to let his family wherever they are, let them know what has happened."
"It's sad, but it's nice that we can come here and honor him for his service,” said Cormier.
Anderson may have died alone, but he was not alone today. In burial he will forever be surrounded by his fellow servicemen and women.
"This veteran, although immediate family is not here, he does have family here. We as veterans and patriots are his family. It's an honor and privilege to serve him this one last time,” said Longacre.
Affordable Burial and Cremation provides free services to homeless or unclaimed veterans. This is the second funeral Falcon has arranged this year. He is currently searching for the family of another veteran who will soon be laid to rest.