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Homeless, a veteran and unclaimed: Thomas Cummings receives a proper burial

A group of neighbors and servicemembers remembered a brother who was, for too long, forgotten.

GRIFFIN, Ga. — It's 90 minutes until goodbye.

"I'm just trying to keep everybody parked," said David Schreckengost. He's a ride captain with the Patriot Guard Riders. He's in Griffin, Georgia with a small group of veterans to remember a brother -- a brother they didn't know and went, for too long, forgotten.

"It breaks my heart," he told 11Alive's Matt Pearl. "I just felt like we had to be here ... and we're gonna be his family today."

It's 60 minutes until goodbye.

Clif Thomas lowers a flag. He runs the Haisten McCullough Funeral Home in Griffin. When the body of Thomas Cummings went unclaimed last month, Thomas went to work.

"We found out he was a veteran," he said. "He was honorably discharged. We shared it on Facebook. Soon we had people in Atlanta calling. People in Kentucky started calling."

He stands with the Patriot Guard Riders set to escort Cummings' remains to his hometown's Oak Hill Cemetery.

"This man lived," Thomas said. "It's our honor and our duty to make sure he is respected and honored in death."

It's 30 minutes until goodbye.

Billy Blankenship stands at the cemetery plot with a crowd of dozens. He's the rare attendee who actually knew the deceased.

"He was my neighbor," Blankenship says.

Friends who knew Cummings from his old days in Griffin show up with photos and even a yearbook. No one can speak on his final years, the time he spent homeless and on the streets before he was hit by a car in March. He died in the hospital in April.

"The other day I got a knock on the door," Blankenship says. "I heard he had been hit by a car. It was a total shock."

On this day in May, a crowd of roughly a hundred residents and veterans stand in silence ... for a few minutes of goodbye. Thomas Cummings was 70 years old.

RELATED: Another homeless veteran has been laid to rest. Nearly 40,000 remain across America.


Matt Pearl’s Untold Atlanta series tells the stories we don’t hear often enough: the stories of our communities and the people who make them special. If you know of a great untold story to share, follow Matt on Facebook or e-mail him at mpearl@11alive.com.


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