Veteran's funeral brings out community support
COLUMBIA - The Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital and the Patriot Guard Riders are teaming up to make sure every veteran in Missouri knows they have a place to go, following the funeral of Kenneth Todl on Friday.
Todl, a U.S. Air Force veteran, passed away at the hospital in December, homeless and with no family by his side. Upon his passing, the hospital and the PGR combined efforts to track down Todl's family so as to have them present for a proper send off. With the help of social media, they were able to locate his brother.
Before a crowd outside the hospital Friday afternoon, the PGR transported the remains of Todl to the Memorial Park Cemetery for a funeral service in which Todl's brother, hospital staffers and the riders were present.
According to Reed Hicham, a senior ride captain for the PGR, it is vital that veterans in the community recognize there are people who care about them even if their families are not around.
"No veteran should be alone, and they won't be alone, because the patriot guard and the VFW and other organizations like that will be there to take care of them. And we will be there to represent them as family if they don't have anybody," Hicham said.
Sylvia Jackson, Chief of Voluntary Service for the Truman VA hospital, has worked with voluntary government programs for 23 years. According to Jackson, too often veterans are unaware of the resources available to them.
"They don't think there's a place for them. But if they just gave any VA an opportunity or a chance, then they can find one best for them," Jackson said.
This is not the first time the hospital and PGR have teamed up following the death of a veteran without family by their side.
"It's the second one we've had in this area. The first one we done, we could not find family. So we were his family. We were very lucky this time to have social media to help us out," Hicham said.
But it's not just the veterans without family the team is trying to reach out to and help.
"The one's we need to reach out to are the ones that don't come into the VA. The ones that we don't know about. The ones that are sitting in homeless camps," Hicham said. "We need to go out and find them and help try to get back on their feet. They served our country honorable, and did a great service for our country, it's only best we get out there and try to give back to them. Because it's not right the way things are going now."
"If they come to a VA and we're not able to help, we know how to direct them. But we can always help them," Jackson said.