Tennessee Honor Guard ‘Blown Away’ As Community Members Turn Out for Funeral of Army Veteran Who Died Without Family

by Amy Myers
(Photo Credit: Tim Graham / Contributor/ Getty Images)

When Army veteran Charles Sidney Sides passed, the Tri-County Veteran Honor Guard of Tennessee made sure to honor with dignity. Sides passed at age 84 with no next of kin to attend his funeral. In order to avoid an empty funeral, the Honor Guard reached out to the community in an effort to pay respects to the serviceman. On June 10, dozens of strangers from the surrounding community came to attend Sides’ funeral.

According to WLTV reporter Abby Kousouris, the Honor Guard was not expecting the response that they received. “The Honor Guard asked people to attend and were blown away by the support.”

When honorably discharged, Sides left the Army with the rank of Staff Sergeant. His obituary states little more about him than his birthplace in Rector, Ark. and most recent residency in Maynardville, Tenn. Despite this, Knoxville community members still watched as he received his graveside honors at East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery.

Honoring Veterans Without Families

Unfortunately, Sides is not the only veteran who has received his honors without any living family to receive his remains. In 2019, The Associated Press reported, “Since 2000, Dignity Memorial and other funeral homes in more than 30 cities have organized about 3,000 funerals for soldiers, sailors and Marines who died alone, but still deserved a dignified funeral and burial.”

On June 9, the Patriot Guard Riders took part in a funeral procession for seven local veterans. None of the service members had any surviving family. As a volunteer motorcyclist organization, the Patriot Guard Riders rode down Chapman Highway to pay their respects.

According to ABC WATE, funeral director Jeff Berry of Berry Funeral Home said, “It’s always important to remember veterans and the gentlemen who served this country that have passed away without anyone to claim them, remembered here today, and provide them with this service and the memorialization they deserve.”

East Tennessee has a record of honoring its service members without descendants. In 2019, Berry Funeral Home held a similar service for the late Army veteran, Kathryn Anne Bey. ABC WATE reported that Bey served as a medical assistant in Germany. She retired from the Army in 1977.

With no family to mourn her, the Honor Guard similarly reached out to the public once again. When asked to attend, many members of the community came to show their respect to Bey as she received her honors.

Outside of Knoxville, fellow service members placed an American flag on each headstone in Arlington Cemetery for Memorial Day Weekend. The cemetery houses the graves of deceased armed forces members. Although many of these passed heroes have surviving families, the gesture ensures all gravestones are honored equally.