[Hpn] Homeless Navy Veteran Receives Military 21 Gun Salute Military Funeral
William Charles Tinker
Thu, 16 Jun 2005 20:42:16 -0400
Homeless Navy veteran receives military-style funeral
June 16, 2005
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Richard Horton spent his last years alone on the streets,
his possessions stashed in plastic bags. Stubbornly independent, he was a
man of few words, never mentioning his stint in the Navy to a homeless
advocate who brought him food and kind words.
Yet on Thursday, the homeless man who died almost friendless _ in the same
hospital where he sometimes sought shelter from the bitter cold _ was
remembered for his service to country.
Horton, 58, received a military-style funeral, complete with a graveside
21-gun salute from a Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard. A U.S. flag
draped his coffin, and a few dozen people who never knew him in life came
forward to honor him in death.
"Little can be said for the life of this man, because we know little about
him," said Jack Crenshaw, a Baptist minister who spoke at Horton's funeral.
"But we are confident in this, and know it to be a fact, that this gentleman
was known by God."
Horton was found gravely ill May 30 by emergency workers and died two days
later from a rupture in the brain, caused by trauma or a ruptured blood
With no family claiming his body, Horton seemed destined for a pauper's
Then a nationwide funeral home network stepped forward to cover Horton's
funeral expenses, and someone anonymously donated a mausoleum crypt in South
For Dignity Memorial Funeral Providers, it was the 39th time the funeral
home network had covered funeral costs for a homeless veteran in Louisville,
and the 330th time nationally.
Horton was in the Navy from 1963 to 1966. He remained stateside during his
stint and was honorably discharged, according to the U.S. Department of
On Thursday, a small group of veterans from the same era saluted Horton's
casket as a group of firefighters carried it toward its final resting place.
"Even though we didn't know him, he was a veteran and he needs to be put in
his grave with honor," said Richard Perry, a member of the Vietnam Vets
Perry said the government that Horton and other homeless veterans helped
protect let them down later in life. "They don't deserve to live on the
street," Perry said. "They fought for their country, they went through hell
for this country, and we let them down."
Nationally, an estimated 192,000 veterans are homeless on any given day,
compared to about 250,000 five years ago, said Pete Dougherty, director of
the homeless veterans program with the Department of Veterans Affairs. It's
been estimated that nearly one-fourth of all homeless adults are veterans.
"We don't really have a good answer for why that's the case," Dougherty said
in a phone interview. "We're trying to get some better answers."
More transitional beds are being made available for homeless veterans, with
government support, Dougherty said. Still, any homelessness among those who
took up arms for their country "is nothing less than tragic," he said.
At Horton's funeral, Crenshaw said the veteran had probably been shunned by
many who walked past him, but said that "death is a leveling place for all
"Life probably did not treat him with kindness," Crenshaw said. "Perhaps
some of his decisions were not the best. But is that not true of every one
For homeless advocate Kris Salyer, Horton was one of his "regulars" on his
weekly rounds to deliver food, coffee or water, shoes and blankets to the
homeless in Louisville. Horton was always thankful for the help and never
asked for anything more, Salyer said.
Horton also steadfastly refused to go to a shelter, despite his tattered
clothes and no matter how cold it got outside, he said. Horton spent his
nights on a downtown park bench, in a hospital emergency waiting room or a
Salyer said he regretted not getting to know Horton better. He said it was a
lesson that everyone should take to heart _ to take the time to talk to the
homeless, to buy them a meal and find out if they can do anything to help.
"We are all sad, and maybe a tear comes to our eyes," he said while
eulogizing Horton. "But what are we going to do tomorrow and next week when
you see a homeless person walk down the streets of Louisville?"
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