Standing with a salute, veterans from across the Portland metro area stood in pause Wednesday at the Willamette National Cemetery. What drew all of them there was not for family or a dear friend but for someone they had never met before.
They all had gathered to honor and lay to rest Air Force veteran Albert Lee Farley.
He served his country from 1967-1971. For the past 15 years, he was homeless off and on until he passed away. On June 28, he was laid to rest with full military honors. But what makes his story so tough is that he has no known family to claim him.
"It changes your life," Crystal Mai Purdy said.
Purdy is the funeral director with Lincoln Memorial Park and Funeral Home. She has been putting the funerals together for the past few years for veterans with no family to claim them. It's done through the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program.
"These services give people an opportunity to come and really know what it is like to be selfless, to be caring for somebody you didn't know," Purdy said.
Sometimes these funerals are for veterans who felt they had no one to go to, no one to simply have a conversation with. Possibly they took their own life because they felt as if their life didn't matter.
That's where Lines for Life comes in.
"A lot of veterans would not be in this position if they had called Lines for Life and gotten some help," Thomas Milligan said.
Folks are on hand 24 hours a day to talk with veterans dealing with a mental crisis or thoughts of suicide. On the other end of those phone calls you'll find Milligan.
Wednesday he was on hand to honor and receive the flag draped over Mr. Farley's casket.
"There is no way in the world that someone should be buried who has served our country without someone to honor them," Milligan said.
He adds these ceremonies bring a sense of closure and comfort knowing a fellow airman had been laid to rest with full honors.
"I will go home tonight feeling better about myself and all the folks who came out here," Milligan said.
"When you get to come experience honor like this for a complete stranger it is one of the most selfless things that someone in the community can do," Purdy said.
FOX 12 is helping to raise money to benefit Lines for Life. To make a donation to help give a voice for veterans, visit KPTV.com/Voice or simply text "LINES" to 444999.
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