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4 ‘unclaimed’ Vietnam veterans will be buried in South Carolina on Friday

Army National Guard Honor Guard officers extend full military honors. [MELODY BURRI/FOR MESSENGER POST MEDIA/TNS]

Four Vietnam War veterans with no known family members will be laid to rest at the Beaufort National Cemetery with full military honors Friday at noon.

The public is encouraged to pay tribute to the men and their service.

“These Vietnam veterans did not get the appreciation they deserved when they got home, so we want to make sure they get it now,” said Janet Horton, Beaufort County’s administrative deputy coroner.

The Beaufort County Coroner’s Office identified two of the veterans:

— Army Cpl. Nathan Goldin, who served from March 1960 to July 1965. He died Feb. 17 at age 79.

— Army specialist Phillip Michael Flies, who served from October 1966 to October 1969, and was an Air Medal recipient. He died April 11 at the age of 72.

The Dorchester County Coroner’s Office identified the other two veterans:

— Navy Chief Petty Officer Richard W. Green, who served from August 1950 to March 1970 in both the Korean Conflict and Vietnam War. He died Christmas Eve 2013 at age 83. Green was an interior communications electrician.

— Navy Petty Officer Samuel J. Miller, served from November 1956 though October 1966. He died Feb. 24, 2005 at age 67.

The coroners attempted but weren’t able to locate next of kin to claim the veterans’ remains.

“We exhaust every possible lead we can, including searching previous addresses and connections,” Horton said. For one of the Beaufort County veterans, Horton filled two sheets of legal paper with the different contacts she’d tried, but none panned out.

Whenever the man was asked for an emergency contact, such as for a doctor’s appointment, he put his own name and number.

For every “unclaimed” person, the coroner’s office checks with the Veteran’s Administration to see if the person served in the military. If they did, the office contacts the proper military branch to get more information on their honors and completes paperwork to make arrangements for their burial in the national cemetery.

“We see death every day, which makes life more precious,” Horton said. “We have so many boxes of cremains here that have not been claimed over the years, and when we find out they are veterans, we do everything we can to get them interred here because we don’t want anybody to stay on the shelf forever … This is what they deserve.”

Members of the Disabled American Veterans chapter 12 in Beaufort plan to gather about a half-hour before the ceremony, and will place forget-me-not flowers on the veterans’ caskets after the service as they say their goodbyes, chapter office Doug Hart said.

“We’ve seen many times when people don’t have any family to stand for them … and we hate to see anybody be buried at the cemetery without someone there for them,” Hart said. “It’s important for us to be there whenever we can and show respect for those veterans. We don’t want them to think they’ll be forgotten.”

Beaufort National Cemetery is one of three national cemeteries in South Carolina. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration maintains 151 national cemeteries across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, in addition to 34 soldiers’ lots and monument sites.

During Friday’s event, the four urns will be displayed at the gazebo with flags. As a COVID-19 precaution, only 10 people will be permitted under the gazebo at a time, and all other attendees are encouraged to stand socially distanced in the grassy area surrounding the shelter, according to a news release about the event.

The Beaufort National Cemetery is requiring attendees wear facial coverings as a COVID-19 precaution, Jeff Applegate, assistant director of Beaufort’s National Cemetery, said.


(c) 2020 The Island Packet

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