Homeless Veteran Receives Proper Funeral From Community

As motorcycles poured into Fort Jackson National Cemetery, emotions began to rise thinking about the three previously unclaimed veterans.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A veteran who was homeless passed away in a Lexington County park was honored Friday with a proper funeral held by members of the community.

It’s never easy to say goodbye. It’s even harder when the people who have passed on seem forgotten.

As motorcycles poured into Fort Jackson National Cemetery, emotions began to rise thinking about the three previously unclaimed veterans.

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Pamela Longwood is an army veteran. She understands that no one in uniform can be left behind.

"I felt sad. My heart felt heavy. I couldn't understand but I know how important it is to see a support system when you have a homegoing service. You really need to know that somebody cares," said Longwood.

Last month, a veteran who was homeless passed away at a Lexington County park. Lexington County Coroner, Margaret Fischer, identified the man as Dennis Reidy.

Reidy, an air force veteran, also served as a Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott remembers Reidy as a hard-working deputy who was proud to serve in the military.

"All of us who worked with him are better people for knowing him. Unfortunately, he died homeless and we all need to be concerned about it and do all we can for our veterans," said Lott.

Reidy also went to school at the University of South Carolina.

After discovering what had happened, the American Legion, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, and the Fort Jackson National Cemetery stepped in to give Reidy and the two other veterans a proper funeral.

Richard Strobel with the the American Legion knew they had to do something

"It really breaks your heart because you know what they've gone through. They dedicated themselves for us, at some point something went wrong and because of that, they're left alone," said Strobel.

The service was done for free for Reidy.

Sadly, Reidy died alone, or at least thought he didn't have family.

Diane Pryslak hasn't seen her first cousin since 1961. After decades of searching, she found out through an email that Dennis had passed away.

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"Dennis was a missing link for us and I've been trying for several years now to find him, to contact him. Felt I had to say goodbye to him and let him know that he's still our link to the male side of the family. It was a fitting goodbye," said Pryslak.

Even though she didn't find him like she had hoped, she still can feel that he's there with her.

"I just felt his presence. When the dead go, their soul goes first. They leave a body behind. His soul was up in Heaven and looking down and I think he was stunned. Stunned," explained Pryslak.

Families that did attend the funeral say they were happy to see all the support and were proud of the way their loved ones were honored.