A proper burial: Remains of 6 veterans laid to rest in Jennings

Southwest Louisiana came together Thursday to show their final respects for the remains of six veterans who died without any family to claim them.

The Unaccompanied Veterans Memorial Service marked the first time unclaimed veterans remains have been given a final resting place at the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Jennings.

Quoting Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Joey Strickland, Cemetery Director Dwayne Guidry said, “We owe the men and women who have served our country a debt of gratitude and that includes a burial of dignity.”

The four soldiers, two sailors and one Marine died without legal next-of-kin to claim the bodies.

Those laid to rest were:

Army

Private Darryl A. Lowry, 61, who served from 1977-1980.

Specialist 4 James Cecil Osborne, 68 , a Vietnam veteran who served from 1968-1972.

Sgt. Edward Lee Hall, 68, a Vietnam veteran who served from 1971-1977. Hall was a recipient of the Army Commendation Medal.

Marine Corps

Cpl Alton Eugene Caudle, 62, a Vietnam veteran who served from 1971-1975.

Navy

Seaman Recruit Steve Edward Bihlmire, 77, who served in 1961.

Petty Officer 4 Dean Ira Hurst, 65, a Vietnam veteran who served from 1973-1976.

Patriotic urns were solemnly marched into the pavilion before the start of the ceremony by active military service men and women who also served as honor guards for the service.

DeRidder resident and Army veteran Vance Beaver, of the Muscogee Nation Tribe, did not know any of the deceased but said they all deserve a proper burial and recognition for their service.

“I came because I heard there were six veterans that did not have any family,” Beaver said. “I said that is not correct and that needs to be corrected. They may not have any blood family here, but we as veterans are their family.”

Roland “Blade” Sanchez, a retired veteran from Baton Rouge, was there to show support for the men who bravely served their country and died alone. Sanchez was among more than a dozen members of the Patriot Guard Riders who came to properly honor their fellow veterans.

“It is sad that these six veterans don’t have any family,” Sanchez said. “They have been forgotten, but we are here to be their family and honor the sacrifices they have made for their country. Because of them we have the security and freedom we have today.”

Elaine Lejeune, of Jennings, whose husband is a Vietnam veteran, said it was important to pay tribute to the veterans even though she did not personally know any of them.

“If it weren’t for these people we wouldn’t be here today,” she said. “We would be like Russia.”

Deacon Mike Tramel of Hathaway said it is everyone’s duty to come together to say a final farewell to the veterans, thank them for all they have given in life and bury them with the military honors they deserved.

The veterans received full military honors including a three-volley salute, sounding of Taps and a flag presentation.

The cemetery staff, in partnership with the St. Mary Parish Coroner’s Office and LDVA veterans assistance counselors, worked to locate the families of these veterans, but none were found. Over the past two years, 44 indigent veterans were interred at LDVA’s five veterans cemeteries.

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