Sometimes people slip through society’s cracks. Often, we might assume a homeless man sleeping on a bench or crumpled in a corner is just a junkie who got (or needs) his fix. Even when people toss him some change, they usually don’t try and find out how this person ended up on the street.
Sergeant John Beard was an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, serving between 1968 and 1971. He was a good soldier, earning four medals, but like far too many veterans of the armed forces, he had problems adjusting to civilian life. He eventually ended up homeless on the mean streets of St. Louis. Before he died of brain and lung cancer at the age of 67, he happened to meet Calvin Whitaker, the owner of the Michel Funeral Home. Whitaker strongly believed that military personnel and veterans who pass away deserve a proper funeral with full military honors; that this was the very least we can do for people who served the country so selflessly. And so it was that Whitaker had the funeral home provide a funeral at no charge for Sergeant Beard.
The funeral home owner’s generosity and respect were incredible enough, but then something really amazing happened. Local news outlets picked up on the story and scores of people lined the streets and saluted as the funeral procession passed. There was also an escort, thanks to a biker gang! But this wasn’t the usual sort of gang. The Patriot Guard are a group of motorcyclists who are veterans themselves. On this day, their mission was to make sure one of their brothers wasn’t forgotten when he was laid to rest.
In life Sergeant Beard had been left behind and in death had no family at his side. But we think you’ll agree it’s really touching how he finally received some recognition and tribute from a grateful community.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about this story in the comments at Facebook. Be sure to like and share so others are reminded that there are so many veterans who’ve been forgotten by society.