Unclaimed veteran receives full military funeral from community

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -- With full military honors, dozens of fellow veterans saluted their brother in arms for the very last time.

"To be here with fellow veterans means everything to me. It helps bring us all together as a group,” said Paul Gould, a U.S. Navy veteran.

Edward Nowak, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in the Korean War, died in a Florida hospital last month.

Nowak's family didn't come forward to claim his body, so Forest Meadows Funeral Home in Gainesville, Fla. teamed up with veterans' groups and provided a full military funeral for Nowak.

"The veterans of our country are special people and they have given a lot so that we can have everything, really. Every veteran deserves to have a funeral,” said Forest Meadows Funeral Home Vice President Jon Thomas.

The Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff's Office escorted the procession from Gainesville to the county lines.

From there, the run continued to the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

"As soon as I hear TAPS and the 21-gun salute, I've been doing this for a while, I still get teary-eyed. It's just something about it. It's the American way to bury a veteran with those things in the background,” said Forest Meadows Funeral Home Veteran Representative Jim Lynch.

Usually, the veteran's family is given a folded flag that was draped over the casket. Families are also given the empty bullet shells shot at the funeral.

"It definitely is nice to have this sense of family with the military and veterans in our community and hope it only grows and gets better,” said Gould.

For some, the funeral brought back meaningful memories.

"My experience serving this country has been phenomenal, the best thing to happen to me in my life, other than my children and my beautiful wife,” said Gould.

Veterans also say the community is a family who stays together through thick and thin.

Read the original version of this article at wcjb.com.