DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – It was a somber Friday morning at the Dayton National Cemetery as more than 150 people showed up to honor a hero with no known family.
The service brought in people of all ages, those in attendance said while they had never met James Cummins, the Vietnam veteran being laid to rest, they wanted it to be known that he did not die alone.
The representative for next of kin for Cummins, and the recipient of his folded flag was Carmela Daniels. Daniels and Cummins never actually met, but Daniels is a social worker with the Dayton VA medical center who completed Cummins’ eligibility for a veterans service and scheduled the burial.
“A few months ago, I was in a meeting and someone had informed me that they had the cremains of a veteran who had passed away, they didn’t know what to do with them, they didn’t know how to get him to his final resting place,” said Daniels.
Daniels said Cummins died last March. The burial service took place nearly a year later, but finally gave the unaccompanied veteran with no known family the honor of a veteran’s service.
“Mr. Cummins will receive full military honors and a dignified burial,” said Doug Ledbetter, the director of the Dayton National Cemetery. “We are remembering those who gave to the country and to their fellow Americans.”
Daniels said she knows Cummins was from the Lima area and had met just one of his friends. She said she was prepared to come to the service on Friday alone but the Miami Valley showed up for the veteran’s final send off.
“I was emotional because I was glad to see the support, and I am humbled to hold his flag and to be part of his life even in this part,” said Daniels.
The service was overseen by the Knights of Columbus, a “Final Salute” society. Robert Dils with the organization said they have been conducting these services of unaccompanied veterans about once or twice a month for the past five years.
“This is a very humbling experience to see the outpouring of support form the community,” said Dils. “I know quite few people drove many miles to get here today. And some of these veterans have just been alone for so long and now when they pass, for them to be respected and honored at this time, it’s the best.”
And while Cummins has no known blood relatives, some of his fellow Vietnam Veterans who gave him the final salute on Friday said he has a family with them.
“I had to come and say bye to a brother,” said Ronald Harris, a Vietnam Veteran. “It’s what we do. We leave no one behind.”
Daniels said the folded flag she was presented will be framed and placed in the Dayton VA Social Services office, to serve as a reminder on the tough days, the reason for what they do.
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