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‘Let them know they have family.’ Homeless vets laid to rest at Fort Jackson

American Flag (Unsplash/Lucas Sankey)
February 24, 2018
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They came in limousines and on Harleys. They were old and young. Black and white.

Many wore suits and ties. Others donned leather jackets and jeans. Some were in uniform. They held flags, offered flowers and cried.

The mourners gathered to honor two men they didn’t know and one man some thought they knew. They buried Airman 1st Class Raymond Gerard, Army Pvt. Glenn Duncan Jr. and Airman Dennis Reidy with full military honors.

All three died homeless.

“It’s sad these men didn’t know they had family,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. “That’s on us. … I hope this is a challenge to everyone here to let all of our veterans know they have family.”

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Although no one at the gathering knew Duncan or Gerard, several knew Reidy, including Lott. Reidy was a former Richland County sheriff’s deputy.

“He wore two uniforms,” Lott said. “And he was a good cop.”

But no one, including Lott, knew the 69-year-old had been living in a storage box in a wooded area off Chariot Street in Lexington County. It was there that he was found dead on Jan. 23.

The ceremony was held in a pavilion among rows and rows of identical white headstones. The ashes of the three veterans were escorted from Chapin Town Hall to the cemetery at Percival Road in Columbia by American Legion Riders and members of the Patriot Guard, all riding motorcycles donned with American flags.

The cortege was accompanied by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department Traffic Unit.

Many local service organizations were represented.

“We’re here to do them honor because they served their country,” said Ronald Stoud, the chaplain at American Legion Post 17 in Camden and a retired Marine who served in Vietnam. “They raised their hands and took a vow just like we did.”

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The ceremony featured a 21-gun salute, and the Air Force and Army anthems were played on the bagpipes. The service concluded with the singing of “Amazing Grace.”

“I wish (Reidy) would have had my number,” said Richard Mullinex, chaplain of American Legion Post 193 in Chapin. “I wish all these men would have had our numbers. Then they would have known they had family.”

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© 2018 The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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