At the edge of the trash mound, sticking out from beneath a box, Sturgell spied a worn green folder.Thanks to two teenagers who cared, this veteran received the honor due him, and everyday Americans paid their respects:
She pulled it out, brushed off the dust. Across the top, bold letters said "Department of Defense." Inside, she found retirement papers from the U.S. Army; a citation for a Purple Heart issued in 1945; and a certificate for a Bronze Star medal "for heroism in ground combat in the vicinity of Normandy, France... June 1944." In the center of the certificate there was a name: Delbert E. Hahn.
Why would anyone throw that away? Sturgell asked.
And who is that guy? Colt wanted to know. Must be old, a World War II vet. Looks like he served at D-Day!
That night, they took the paperwork back to Sturgell's house and searched Delbert E. Hahn on the computer. Nothing. They talked about who he might have been, the life he might have led.
The next morning, they went back to the trash heap and searched for more clues. They rummaged through boxes, overturned furniture, picked through piles of the past. Colt moved a ratty couch - and something fell out. A metal vase, or box, some kind of rectangular container about a foot tall. On the base was the name: Delbert E. Hahn.
"It's him," Colt told his girlfriend. "This must be him, in his urn."
Sturgell screamed. She didn't want to touch it. It was kind of freaky, she said, discovering the remains of some dead guy.
"He shouldn't be here," Colt said. "No one should be thrown away like that, just left in a parking lot."
The teenagers sat on the front bench. Three officials from Veterans Affairs sat behind them. They had spent weeks searching for the Hahns' relatives, any distant kin or friend, someone who might want their ashes - or at least want to come to their burial.May we never forget the sacrifice of our military men and women.
They couldn't find anyone. ...
By the time the chaplain lifted his head from the Lord's Prayer, a long line of men had wrapped around the gazebo.
Wearing blue denim shirts and work boots, they clasped their caps in their hands and bowed their heads. Dozens of groundskeepers from the cemetery had left their Christmas party to come pay respects to the man who, in death, had been so disrespected.
A bugler played taps. The riflemen fired three shots. And 56 people watched the honor guard fold a flag over the urns of the man and woman they never knew.
H/T to Mom