When a veteran passes away, it is mandatory (Public Law 106-65) that they receive a military funeral honors ceremony. However, not every veteran is able to receive this honor. This was the case of Thomas Hunter, a WWII veteran, passed away on September 12, 2017, at the age of 93. He deserved this rite of passage. However, his funeral planners had some problems. Thomas did not have any children and he’d already outlived his parents, siblings, and most of his family members. He was not married, so there was no one to carry his casket.
The local high school football team heard the news and decided to help out honor Thomas and the legacy he left behind.
Six students from Winnfield Sr. High School –Matthew Harrell, Brett Jurek, Justin Lawson, T.J. Homan, Christian Evans, and Lee Estay – volunteered to serve as Hunter’s pallbearers.
The whole country heard what high schoolers did and days after the funeral, Congressman Ralph Abraham delivered a speech on the House floor. He said:
“I am so inspired by the actions of Matthew, Brett, Justin, TJ, Christian, and Lee, as well as others in the community who gave Mr. Hunter the hero’s send-off he deserved. They didn’t know this man, but they knew that every veteran deserves to die with dignity and be honored for the sacrifices he made in defense of this nation.”
The funeral home that provided the veteran’s casket also shared the story :
“Thomas Edward Hunter, a World War II Veteran, who served our great nation at D-Day, passed away at the age of 93 on September 12, 2017. His only survivors were nieces and a nephews. With no one to serve as pallbearers six young men from the Tiger Football Team at Winnfield Sr. High School graciously volunteered to serve as pallbearers.
These are FIRST CLASS young men and are to be highly commended for serving in this capacity.(Justin Lawson, Brett Jurek, Matthew Harrell, Lee Estay, T. J. Homan, and Christian Evans.) Thank you to the School Administration as well as the Football Coaching Staff for making this possible as well as to the parents of these young men for instilling them with such good values. There were also members of the Patriot Guard present to escort Mr. Hunter to his place of disposition. Military Honors were conducted at the Cemetery by U.S. Army.”