COVINGTON, Tenn. — It’s not uncommon that the memory of a war veteran is lost to time. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, at any time there can be between 10 and 50 thousand unclaimed veteran remains in America.
While this has been a troubling trend for the veteran community, it’s also helped create a unity in West Tennessee, to provide the deceased with the honor they deserve.
“It’s a brother in arms, in a time of need and we show,” said Pete Thedford, Patriot Guard Riders Stake Captain.
Raymond Kenneth Parker passed away on December 29th. He was a Marine who served in the Vietnam War, earning a National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and a Good Conduct Medal.
Eventually, Parker’s body was under the care of Maley-Yarbrough Funeral Home.
“We received a phone call on the 29th about receiving Mr. Raymond K. Parker into our care. They didn’t have a lot to go on,” said Dianne Kirkpatrick, Maley-Yarbrough Funeral Director.
There were a lot of missing puzzle pieces for the funeral home. Parker’s body was left unclaimed, and the only one who they were able to find to help them was a friend who had rented a place to Parker.
“We searched from the day we received him into our care until this morning, and we had numerous phone calls all day, all night, all hours of the night,” said Kirkpatrick.
Until Monday morning there was not a whole lot of luck.
“A family that initially kept popping up on every search actually drove seven and a half hours here today and it didn’t even turn out to be a family,” said Kirkpatrick.
However, Parker was not alone during his burial. After talking to local veteran organizations about Parker, several posts on the matter went viral. Hundreds of community members and veterans were making their way to Covington for the service.
“I saw a post and I wasn’t going to let a Marine be buried by himself. He had no family and we stand by our own,” said William Blakely, Marine Corps Veteran.
Each attendee was dedicated to making sure Parker was remembered.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” said Blakely.
“I was hoping to get a few people out here for the funeral and it ended up a few more than a few,” said Daniel Summers, a member of the Tipton County Marine Corps League. “I was really glad to see so many people care enough to come out and say good bye.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a turnout of strangers that came together to form a family,” said Kirkpatrick.