The South Carolina Patriot Guard Riders are escorting three veterans for burial in Columbia on Friday.
The remains of Army Veteran Glenn Duncan, Airman Dennis Reidy and Airman 1st Class Raymond Gerard will be escorted from American Legion Post 193 in Chapin to Fort Jackson National Cemetery. All three veterans are from Lexington County.
“They served this country,” Assistant State Captain L.Z. Harrison said. “They raised their hand and swore to defend this country. And it’s our duty to ensure that they’re laid to rest with the honor and respect and dignity that they deserve based on their service to this great nation.”
The remains of all three were not claimed by family members. Reidy was found deceased in a wooded area near Lexington, where he had been living without a home.
“We feel for them and we fell for the life that they led and how their lives unfortunately ended,” Harrison said, who is a veteran himself. “We do shed a tear. We have a saying that ‘the sand got in our eyes because the sand was blowing that day.’ But in reality, it’s us feeling just as we’re one of their family members.”
Those tears are why you see the tough men and women of the Patriot Guard Riders wearing sunglasses.
“We have on those sunglasses even when it’s not sunny,” he said. “Because even though we do many of these, they still get to us and every one we do there’s still tears shed. Especially those such as these where we stand in as their family members because they were unclaimed.”
Harrison said the attention Reidy’s death received in the Midlands also reminds people that some of the region’s homeless are veterans who may be estranged from family and struggling with Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder. Reidy also once worked as a Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy.
“The awareness that his death, because of the attention it received, the awareness that it brought to the plight of veterans that have served our country: Many of them are homeless and many of them don’t have family members to look after them,” Harrison said. “This brought light and attention to it here… and I hope that the people that heard the stories and the people that said they wanted to do something — I hope that they follow through in their actions.”
Harrison also suggested offering them resources that assist veterans. “You can help by just talking to them,” he said. “By just sitting down and listening to their story and letting them know that people care about them. Try to help those that you can. Not all of them will accept help. It doesn’t hurt to ask them. Many times, just by talking to them about their service and just listening to their stories and letting them share, that in and of itself will help them deal with some of the PTSD and other issues that they’re having.”
American Legion Post 193 in Chapin has taken the initiative in making sure unclaimed veterans in South Carolina are buried with military honors. It, along with the Patriot Guard Riders, VFW, Vietnam Veterans of America, United States Army Honor Guard, Air Force Honor Guard and American Legion Post 71 in North Augusta are participating in Friday’s ceremony.
The burial service begins at noon. The public is welcome to attend but guests are asked to arrive at Fort Jackson National Cemetery by 11:30 a.m. The Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle escort is expected to arrive at 11:45 a.m.