FORT MITCHELL, Ala. (WTVM) - According to the United States Housing and Urban Development, there are more than 30,000 homeless veterans across the country, hundreds of whom are in Georgia alone.
On Friday, the Fort Mitchell community came together to honor a homeless veteran who passed away with no family to attend his funeral.
Terry Whitehead says when he woke up this morning to say goodbye to his best friend of 20 years for the final time, he thought he would be alone.
“I figured when I’d get down here this morning and there wouldn’t be nobody here. I hate to see him go but the outcome of this turned out real nice,” says Whitehead.
He says he did not think anyone would show up because his friend, Specialist Gary Lynn Andrews, was a homeless veteran.
Andrews entered into the U.S. Army in 1975 in Montgomery, Alabama and exited in 1982 after eight years of honorable service at Ft. Benning. Whitehead was surprised to see the Ft. Mitchell community come together to honor a man they have never met.
“We know we’re supposed to honor our veterans. We’re not supposed to put them in the ground with no recognition,” says Patricia Liddell with the Central Alabama Veterans Healthcare Systems.
Liddell says it is a service to repay the service of those who fought for the country.
“We all love our flag. We volunteer for this, no one forces us to do this,” says Ft. Mitchell Post Commander Carl Hubbard.
Friends say Andrews had cancer and passed away at Piedmont Columbus Regional without family at his side, only a man who called him a friend.
“That hurt my heart to know that homeless veterans die with no family and no friends. Some of them die and don’t have a turnout like this. It’s sad. We need to do something. Our Government needs to do more for our homeless vets,” says Hubbard.
“We have quite a few [veterans] here in Columbus that need proper honors,” says Liddell.
Liddell says veterans should take advantage of the services that are available.
“They have to be serious about their healthcare. They have to put it in writing. They’ve got to be willing to say I’m going to fight for this. I can’t go to anyone and say I heard, I need the documents,” Liddell explains.
Whitehead says he’ll continue to remember his friend of 20 years.
“It hurts, you know? But I guess life goes on," says Whitehead.
Liddell says those services offered to veterans can be found by contacting the Veterans Affairs office. She says it should be a priority to serve our veterans.