Homeless Veteran Receives Military Funeral

By Stacy Morrow
|  Thursday, Sep 24, 2009  |  Updated 12:04 AM CDT
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Homeless Veteran Receives Military Funeral

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A military honor guard folds the the American Flag. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Homeless Veteran Receives Military Funeral

A U.S. Army veteran who was found dead behind a dumpster has honor and dignity in his memorial service.
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A U.S. Army veteran who was found dead behind a dumpster gained some dignity in a memorial service attended by strangers Wednesday morning at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery.

Cpl. William Thomas Spence, 64, lived in a cardboard box behind a Haltom City shopping center. He was laid to rest with military honors in a graveside service that included the folding and presentation of the American flag, a rifle volley and the playing of taps.

The Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program organized Spence's final arrangements after no legal next-of-kin could be found for him.  No possessions were found with Spence, and his fingerprints established his identity, the organization said.

VA records confirmed Spence served in the U.S. Army from 1973 to 1985.

"When his country needed him, he went.  When he needed people from his country to help him, they walked on by," said Jeff Thorp, a Staff Sergeant in the Texas State Guard who attended the funeral.  "If all we can do is give him this one last salute, this one last honor, then that's what we do."

Spence was one of more than 150,000 homeless veterans in the U.S., the organization said. 

"The Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program is a cooperative effort designed to ensure that veterans who are homeless, indigent and have no family receive the honors in death that their service in life merited," said Wes Killian, the organization's Dallas-Fort Worth director. "We're honored to be able to give Mr. Spence the dignified military service he deserves."

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