KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A crowd turned out Wednesday at East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery to say goodbye to a man most of them had never met.
He was an Air Force veteran who died homeless with no remaining family members to plan his services, but the community stepped up.
Edmund W. Sumner was a veteran of the Air Force during the Vietnam era. He had become homeless in recent years, but on this day, he had a large family who turned out to honor his years of service.
The 61-year-old’s funeral Wednesday had full military honors. A United States flag draped his casket to honor the memory of his service to America. Sumner’s pastor was presented with the tri-folded flag as a keepsake.
While most of Sumner’s biological family is gone, he found a new spiritual family through his church.
“He was able to be a great blessing to us and I think we to him as well,” said Wes White, pastor of Evergreen Church.
Dozens of brothers and sisters in the military came from Nashville, Atlanta, and right here at home, including the longest held prisoner of war as an enlisted man – retired Air Force Captain Bill Robinson.
“No matter who he or she is, as long as they served their country honorably, there will be vets standing here to bid a farewell,” said Robinson.
The Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program does its best to make sure no honorably discharged veteran goes without a proper farewell.