His life counted: Vietnam veteran laid to rest with full military honors

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Replete with a 21-gun salute, the emotionally haunting notes of “Taps” and the presentation of the United States flag on behalf of a grateful nation, Vietnam veteran Thomas Earl Cummings was on Thursday laid to rest with full military honors in Griffin’s Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery.

Hundreds of people attended to pay respect to a man they did not personally know, but to whom they owed a debt of gratitude.

“We’re honoring him today. We’re not honoring him because we particularly knew him, but because of what he did and what he stood for,” said the Rev. Edward Swehla, of County Line Methodist Church, who officiated the service. “He did his job faithfully. He served overseas during the War in Vietnam for nearly two years. All but five months of his two-year tour were overseas, so we respect that and honor that and appreciate what he did for his country.”

Spalding County Coroner Sonny Foster, who, along with his staff, spent many hours attempting to locate Cummings next of kin, did not anticipate the community outpouring.

“I was overwhelmed. It was amazing really. I was just very overwhelmed and very, very proud to be a part of it. That says a lot. Theirs is a brotherhood you just can’t break. I was overwhelmed by the people who showed up and the respect they showed for him,” Foster said. “I thought it was an obligation on my part to do everything I could to find somebody. We have more people that don’t have next of kin than you can imagine. It’s sad. This man was just basically put out, and he was from Griffin. Thank God some people turned out and showed him respect. I didn’t have the honor of knowing him before this happened, but afterward, I did my best and we ended up having to do the best we could. He deserved that.”

Foster said veterans always will be shown honor in death.

“There’s always a place for them,” he said, adding that he remains hopeful for the future. “I know one thing. It was an eye-opener for me. I don’t get emotional too often, but this time, they got the best of me. To come to me and present me the flag for representing him. I’m going to hold onto it and hopefully, one day, someone may come forward and I’ll be able to give his flag to them. I haven’t given up on finding him. I always hold out hope.”

Swehla encouraged those present to reach out if they need help, and to lend help when able.

“For veterans having hard times, there are ways we can help if the veteran wants to be helped. Some just like to be left alone. That’s their decision and we respect that. Others are looking for a hand up, a way out, something – good news, hope – and we can give them that,” he said. “If you know a homeless veteran, get them in contact with us. We can help them in any way they desire.”

He also reminded everyone that while Cummings was often alone in life, he was not alone in his plight. “Homeless vets are all around us,” he said. “All of their lives counted. His life counted.”

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Comments

  1. Grace Lucas says:

    That is wonderful

  2. David L Baugh says:

    Thank you, Sheila Mathews for your coverage about this Veteran. He would have been proud.

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