With honor: Officials, community step up to bury veteran
Published 7:00 am Friday, March 27, 2015
Typically, those without families are buried in a pauper’s grave, Pearl River County Coroner Derek Turnage said.
However, one man’s story touched the hearts of members in the community and as a result of their efforts, gave one Korean War veteran a proper burial.
James Bryan, an Army veteran, was in his 80s when he passed away at Highland Community Hospital in Picayune on February 15, Turnage said.
“The hospital contacted his next of kin and, for reasons unknown, they refused to come take care of this man’s funeral arrangements,” Turnage said. “He was in the morgue for about two weeks when the case was referred to me as an unclaimed body.”
Turnage said he felt this veteran deserved a proper burial at the National Cemetery in Biloxi, so he called Veterans Services in Poplarville to verify that Bryan was eligible for veteran’s benefits.
In the meantime, Highland nurse supervisors, John Aultman and Chad Stricker, who are both Army veterans, contributed to ensure Bryan wasn’t buried in a pauper’s grave.
“When you serve, you become part of a brotherhood, a fraternity that you never leave,” Aultman said. “You form connections with the people who served before and after you did. He needed someone to take care of him.”
Other community members offered to volunteer their services with regards to constructing a casket, which included Picayune’s American Legion Post 73, Quick and Grice and Magnolia Taxi Cab Service, Turnage said.
As it turned out, Bryan had some burial assistance through the Veterans Administration, so construction of a casket was not needed.
“Even through the casket didn’t have to be constructed, the overwhelming support from this community to get this veteran buried is the most important part,” Turnage said.
The next task involved transporting Bryan to Biloxi for burial. Serenity Transport Service volunteered to transport Bryan’s body to the Biloxi National Cemetery, Turnage said.
Byran is now buried with his fellow servicemen in the Biloxi National Cemetery.
“Pearl River County loves our veterans,” Turnage said. “They know that we are going to look out for them.”