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Make a Difference: Funeral director offers free caskets to deceased veterans

Fred Dickey III says what he offers is a small sacrifice compared to the large sacrifice made by veterans, giving each a free casket and a funeral with dignity.
Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 1:34 AM CST
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - Each year, hundreds of thousands of veterans pass away across the nation.

While some are able to plan their funeral arrangements prior to passing, others aren’t so lucky, leaving the family with the burden and the cost.

While honorably discharged veterans do receive some benefits from the government- free plot, flag and headstone- there’s still much a family needs to pay for.

At least until now, thanks to the generous contribution of a local funeral director who is paying it forward for the freedom veterans left behind.

“Their reaction is sometimes they’re speechless, they’re just overwhelmed because they may have served years ago, but we still honor them.”

Fred Dickey III of Dickey Funeral and Cremation Services gets a bit emotional when he speaks of veterans, especially since patriotism runs in his family.

“Both my grandfathers on my father’s side and my mother’s side were WWII veterans and we have a picture displayed in our selection room.... Just being reminded everyday of the price you pay, the sacrifice he paid, and it’s just an honor just to do that, so I’m reminded everyday, every time I get to serve a veteran’s family.”

It’s that fierce gratitude that a few years ago led him to make what he says is a small sacrifice compared to the large sacrifice made by veterans, giving each a free casket and a funeral with dignity.

“It started on I think either on Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day, you know I think it was Veteran’s Day, let’s give back, let’s do it for this month, and a lot of veterans had so much gratitude, the one’s that took advantage of it by either using it at the time of need or preplanning, they just had this gratitude, you know, we should just continue to do this.”

Since then, the complimentary service has grown. Veterans or their families are able to choose a casket, rental casket and urn, or just the urn for those who prefer something more simple.

“With every honorable discharged veteran, they get a flag. So halfway down it’ll be draped on top of the casket depend on religious affiliation and the cap panel, we can add like a cross or a crucifix, we can even order a custom panel with an American flag that’ll fit perfectly right into this panel area so we can even make it, theme it more for a veteran or just put a religious theme and drape the flag. So if the veteran says, ‘I want to be cremated,’ ok, so this is a sample of our rental caskets. Beautiful cherrywood casket, so this is kinda what it looks like, so this would also be in lieu of burial cremation, this would also be free. Some people just choose cremation only, they don’t want any services, they don’t want any viewing, at the minimum, I’ll give them wood urn.”

For Dickey, a gesture that is truly priceless for those who gave so much in return.

“Because I wasn’t a veteran, but someone else paid that price for us and I just felt like you know what, that’s the least we can do as a small business. I’ve always learned that when you give, you always get back, and that’s not my intention to give back, it just comes naturally.”

Documentation needed by the funeral home is a copy of the deceased veteran’s honorably discharged form, the DD214.

The military burial or cremation will also include the flag fold presentation followed by a 21-gun salute and taps.

Text nominate a community member/send email with short summary and contact information to:

If you’d like to nominate someone in our community who is making a difference, you can do so by sending KGNS’s Mindy Casso an email with a short summary at mindy.casso@kgns.tv.

Make sure to include contact information for both yourself and your nominee.

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