None Left Behind

Reader Contribution by Mary Carton
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Forrest Richard ‘Rick’ Jackson, Vietnam Veteran, died January 1, 2019 at the age of 76.  After discharge from the Army in service of his country, he moved to the Shoals. The Colbert County Coroner located two relatives out of state, but they hadn’t corresponded in twenty years and declined to claim his body and take care of the funeral arrangements and expenses. A niece and her family who had contact with him didn’t find out until the day of his funeral that he had died.

Corinth National Cemetery in Mississippi

His body remained at the morgue at Helen Keller Hospital waiting for someone to claim it. TC Dawson of the local Patriot Guard was contacted by the VA and friends of Mr. Jackson. The Patriot Guard decided that they were going to take care of his funeral. No one left behind is their motto. Morrison Funeral Home in Tuscumbia, upon hearing the story of this veteran, waived funeral expenses.

Left to right: Don Lacy, Eddie Craig, Bill House, Phillp Davis, TC Dawson, Donnie Owens, Marco Shindleborrer

A funeral of almost one hundred fellow veterans, Sheffield American Legion, friends, church, and Patriot Guard members were at his funeral on January 10th.  Many said it seemed odd not having a registry to sign. There wasn’t family there to give it to. The service started with the Patriot Guard and then the American Legion giving its final salute. TC Dawson, veteran and Patriot Guard Senior Ride Captain said “The American Legion Chaplin spoke of all soldiers in a war time situation, being in the dark, alone. What an eerie feeling, yes, tears flowed as we honored our lone veteran. It was as we were his family.” At the end of the ceremony, the American Legion folded the flag as all stood, and saluted as Taps was played.

A friend shared TC Dawson’s post about escorting Forrest Jackson’s body to the Corinth National Cemetery in Corinth Mississippi the morning of January 23. They were meeting at 9 a.m. at Morrison’s Funeral Home in Tuscumbia. I got to talk to the group for about a half hour before it was time to go. One of them had a President Trump Inauguration medal. Some had come as far away as Hartselle, two from Athens, Decatur, Greenhill and Elgin Cross Roads. We said a prayer for a safe trip, and left in a light rain. TC was riding his white motorcycle with a large USA flag flowing on the back and took the lead, followed by the Morrison hearse.  I rode with Phillip Davis, another veteran, in his truck.

As we got to Cherokee, the rain came down harder. Even though we were going the speed limit, with lights flashing, we were being passed.  As a trailer truck passed as though we were going at a snail’s pace, I remarked to Phillip that the Southern funeral courtesy seemed dead today. For a moment I thought TC may have been blown off the road, but out of the cloud of water, I saw the flag flying on the back of his motorcycle. After we crossed into Mississippi, we pulled into the weigh station outside Luka at ten after ten, where we met three Mississippi Patriot Guard riders led by District Ride Captain Greg Underwood. After quick handshakes and hugs, we were off to keep on schedule. The Mississippi Patriot Guard would finish the lead escorting Forrest Jackson to his final resting place. 

We arrived at the cemetery in a steady rain. The cemetery had standing rain, and the wreaths from the Wreaths Across America were still on the graves. We were met by a couple of the staff of the cemetery. The casket was placed on a receiving area off of the driveway covered by a tent. From there the body of Forrest Jackson would be taken to his final resting place later for burial without friends or family. TC asked if Taps and a 21-gun salute would happen. The cemetery had forgotten to call and arrange for it.

TC went to his motorcycle and brought back a small speaker hooked up to his cell phone. Everyone stood at attention while Taps played. Afterwards a prayer was said. As we departed, a cemetery staff member in a long black trench coat stood at attention by the casket.  Someone would be beside him guarding until he was buried.

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