300 Veterans Lay Fellow Soldier to Rest Who Had No Immediate Family

by Matthew Memrick

The call went out in September for help, and days later, 300 veterans helped lay a soldier to rest who had no immediate family.

According to the Southwest (Oklahoma) Ledger in Lawton, Corporal Charles York was a dual service veteran who was a part of the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Vietnam.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Fort Sill National Cemetery officials reached out on Facebook for veterans to attend the service. Conversely, they could not locate any living members of the man’s family.

York’s obituary and his birthdate were not available.

One Facebook user got the message and said, “Many of our Blue Knights Oklahoma IV members are veterans. We will make every effort to have a representative there.”

Around 300 veterans attended the man’s funeral at the Fort Sill National Cemetery. Further, the service lasted 20 minutes, and officials said it was the largest group ever to attend an unaccompanied veteran’s service in the cemetery’s history.

The newspaper published several photos of men on their motorcycles at the funeral. They likely were part of a procession at York’s service.

Veteran’s Legacy

York grew up in Wewoka before his enlistment.

The Facebook post listed his PN2 rank with the U.S. Navy and the corporal rank with the Marines.

After his discharge, the man continued his education. Eventually, York became a teacher. He taught math at Broken Arrow High School for nine years before resigning to focus on his family.

Marilyn Woods, the recreation director and programs administrator for the Lawton/Ft. Sill Veterans Center also said the man was at the center as a resident for 17 years. 

“He is deeply missed by the residents and staff of the facility,” she said in an email.

Subsequently, York enjoyed spending time outdoors, visiting the casino, watching sports and reading.

Unaccompanied Vets Come to Fort Sill Cemetery

 The Fort Sill National Cemetery regularly holds memorial services for unaccompanied veterans. These are former service members whose next of kin is unknown or who have loved ones that cannot attend their service

Often, a public administrator, VA medical center, or another official will make the burial arrangements.

According to the Veterans Administration, every veteran has earned a final burial place in a national cemetery.

Each memorial service includes full military funeral honors, the playing of “Taps,” the presentation of a folded American flag as well as bagpipes. 

The 391-acre Fort Sill National Cemetery in Elgin had a dedication on Nov. 2, 2001. The cemetery is home to more than 8,000 interments of veterans and eligible dependents.

Burial in a VA national cemetery is open to all armed forces members and veterans who have met minimum active-duty service requirements. This term is applicable by law. Another key point of the burial is that veterans had to be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.