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Homeless veteran laid to rest surrounded by strangers

5:26 PM, Mar 22, 2013   |    comments
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A homeless man recently died in Knoxville. His passing might have gone unnoticed if it weren't for one autopsy technician who discovered the man was a veteran. 

The autopsy technician's realization led to a funeral with full military honors.   A group of strangers attended the service to support the fellow serviceman they didn't even know.

Sherrie McGhee and Cyndy Powell are Gold Star Moms. Both of their sons in the military passed away.  Now, it's their mission to ensure no veterans are forgotten.

So, when they heard homeless veteran Sgt. Roger Wayne Campbell would be buried they wanted to attend his funeral.

"He served this country and you gotta have someone there for them and I felt obligated," said Sherri McGhee, "I was there for my son and I wanted to be there for him."

"The two words 'homeless' and 'veteran' should never be in same sentence," explained Cyndy Powell.

Knoxville-based Berry Funeral Home and their parent company's "Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program" made Sgt. Campbell's funeral possible.

Funeral Director, Jeff Berry, explained, "We partner very closely with the medical examiner's office here in Knoxville.  When they identify someone that has not been claimed or is indigent, they will contact us and we provide a service for that veteran at no cost."

Berry said to provide homeless veterans with proper burials is the least the community can do for their service.

"It's the least that we can do to make sure that their burial is in a military cemetery, said Berry.

The life of Sgt. Roger Campbell only became known thanks to the Regional Forensic Center.

After Sgt. Campbell's body wasn't claimed after more than week, Autopsy Technician, Janice Hoffner, researched the man. She found out he served in the United States Air Force with the 6970th Air Base Group from 1969 to 1973 as a Voice Processing Specialist.

"It's an honor," said Hoffner, "It's our duty to get them to where they need to be."

Sgt. Campbell is buried at the East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery.

The Forensic Center and Berry Funeral Home were able to find a niece and brother-in-law of Sgt. Campbell, who also attended the funeral.

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