Memorial Service for Unclaimed / Homeless Veterans

A large crowd of veterans, families of veterans, and supportive citizens were present to honor seven veterans at the Memorial Service for Unclaimed/Homeless Veterans on March 22 at the East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery, 2200 E. Governor John Sevier Hwy., Knoxville.

Seven burial urns and seven tri-cornered folded flags of the United States graced a long table draped in black in the cemetery’s Committal Chapel. Each of the urns was delivered by a hearse escorted to the cemetery by motorcycles ridden by members of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and East Tennessee Bike Chapters. When the hearses arrived at the cemetery, they passed through a Flag Line of mourners bearing US flags. Upon arrival at the chapel, members of the military carried the urns and flags through the drizzling rain and into the chapel where they placed them respectfully on the table.

The urns contained the ashes of the following veterans: Sergeant First Class Jerry Alan Palmer, US Army; Specialist 5 David Brent Bledsoe, US Army; Private First Class Terrell Wayne Biggerstaff, Jr., US Army; Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Charles Robert McMeans, US Navy; Private Joseph Norman McGoldrick, US Army; Private Fredrick Joseph Chase, US Army; and Private Paul Deen Alexander, US Army.

After words of welcome from Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, Chaplain and US Army Veteran Pat Polis spoke reverently of the deceased veterans, read a moving poem, and commented that “they swore an oath to the Constitution” and “they did their duty.” When Chaplain Polis asked all of those in attendance if they would claim the Unclaimed Veterans, the group answered in unison, “I claim them.”

Since the deceased were Unclaimed Veterans, there were no family members present to receive the flags. Therefore, the flag of each veteran was presented to a member of the East Tennessee Regional Forensic Center and to Mayor Jacobs and Chaplain Polis.

Contingents from the East Tennessee Veterans Honor Guard, Volunteer State Honor Guard, and Pigeon Forge Honor Guard provided a 21-gun salute.

Cremation services were provided by Dignity Memorial Homeless/Unclaimed Veteran Burial Program and Berry Funeral Home. For questions about future services, contact Jeff Berry at (865) 577-6666 or (865) 660-4531.

Seven Unclaimed Veterans were given full military honors and interred at the East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on March 22.

The National Society, Daughters of the Revolution (NSDAR) honors veterans, both living and deceased, as a major emphasis of the organization. Thirteen members honored seven Unclaimed Veterans at the memorial service on March 22. (L to R) Front – Elizabeth Finchum, Janet Guyett, Carolyn Mitchell, and Shirlene Mogan, all from the Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter (MDW). Back – Barbara Morgan, MDW; Julie Wilbur, MDW; Brenda Strassler, Emory Road Chapter; Diana West, Emory Road; Jane Busdeker, MDW; Christine Langdon, Mary Blount Chapter; Diane Wright-Green, MDW; Wanda Taylor, Mary Blount; and Janie Bitner, Mary Blount.

Source: Submitted by Jane Busdeker, Corresponding Secretary, MDW Chapter, NSDAR