Hundreds Gather For Funeral Of Homeless Oklahoma Veteran
OKLAHOMA CITY - Hundreds packed into the chapel to say goodbye to Jerry Bryan Billings. Even more stood outside.
Billings was born in 1945 in Sulphur. He died on Christmas Eve at the age of 69.
For two months, Christine Hoffman with Oklahoma County Social services tried to track down his family. But after having no success, she contacted Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial program. And after word got out on social media about the memorial service, it went viral.
"This was just amazing, absolutely amazing, my heart is swollen," said Hoffman.
“The more people that will show up to celebrate the life of these veterans, the more meaningful it is,” said Chapel Hill Funeral General Manager, Todd Tramel. “Sometimes it brings tears to you just because these men and women gave so much for our country and just to celebrate their lives, and to give back in a manner like this is beautiful.”
“I'm glad to see, I didn't expect to see so many people here. It's good, it is heart wrenching that they couldn't find any of his family,” said attendee Chris Johnson, who drove from Kansas.
Veterans and active duty military lined the parking lot as a 21-gun salute honored Mr. Billings. And after the American flag was folded, it was presented to the Patriot Guard Riders.
“It's not my first time but it's emotional each time. It means a lot to all of us. The ones that have served knows what it means, said Patriot Guard Riders Asst. State Capt., Randy Gilreath.
That flag will be put on display at the YMCA Military Center at Will Rogers Airport alongside other veterans who had no blood relative, but thousands of brother and sisters in arms.
“That man fought for it. We all did when we raised our hand,” said Gilreath.
On Monday, the Patriot Guard Riders will escort Mr. Billings' body down to Fort Sill where he'll be buried at the National Cemetery in Elgin.