Community comes together for funeral for two veterans with no known relatives

Updated: Apr. 17, 2019 at 10:46 PM CDT
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LEESVILLE, LA (KPLC) - Two veterans with no known living relatives were laid to rest with hundreds from around the community attending their funeral.

United States Navy Airmen Recruit Howard Glenn Spence was born in Wayne, West Virginia in 1944 and lived in Houma, Louisiana where he died in 2015.

United States Army Private First Class Thomas Bernard Winn was born in Dallas, Texas in 1953 and lived in Vernon Parish, where he worked at the Magnolia House on Fort Polk and worked in DeRidder until he got sick. He had to be moved to a nursing home in Monroe, where he died on April 3, 2019.

Thomas Staggs was among the many who attended the funeral Wednesday; he says he had known Winn for 30 years and the two met at Fort Polk. Staggs says he received a phone call from the nursing home that Winn has a stroke.

“He was like a brother I never had," Staggs said. "I told them I’m not family, I’m just as close to family as you can get, but he had me on all the papers.”

“But seeing all this today, is very heartwarming," Tammy Staggs, wife of Thomas Staggs, said. "You know, seeing people come out to support people they don’t know. Coming from military families, it’s moving. It’s very moving.”

At the funeral, Staggs was given Winn’s military burial flag.

“To accept this for this man that wasn’t blood family, I guess is the best since my dad, when I accepted the flag for my dad.” Staggs said. “It’s an honor. You can’t, you can’t really say how you feel. It’s just something that you’ll never forget. I’m honored.”

Staggs, along with many who attended the funeral, said if you wear the uniform, you’re family.

“He was loved," Staggs said. "That’s what matters. And God loved him. I loved him. And my family loved him, so that’s what matters.”

Winn and Spence will be buried at the Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery.

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