VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN 6) — He served his country bravely, but was forgotten in death. Now, a deceased veteran has an afterlife advocate in Vancouver.
In February, Norma Guthrie found a surprising discovery while cleaning out the storage unit of a friend who had passed away over a year ago: the cremated remains of a U.S. veteran.
“Any veteran that served our country, whether they have family or not, everybody should step up and at least pay respect,” Guthrie told KOIN 6 News.
The cremains are Richard Graeber, a helicopter door gunner in the Vietnam War, who died at age 67 more than a year ago. According to Guthrie, in Graeber’s final days he was taken care of by a man who used up all his money, and left his cremains and belongings in the storage unit.
Guthrie arranged a funeral service for Graeber, and she said she’s trying to pay long overdue bills his caretaker never paid.
Among his other belongings was a picture of Graeber’s 7-year-old son, who was adopted by another family less than a year before his father’s death.
“Richard knew he was getting bad and so just before his son got adopted Richard went down and spent like four or five days with his son when he was in foster care,” Guthrie said.
Because the boy has been adopted, Guthrie said he won’t be eligible for his father’s social security benefits — but he is entitled to his military retirement.
Guthrie has scheduled a memorial for Guthrie on March 30 at 1 p.m. at Willamette National Cemetery.
“I just want him to go in peace,” Guthrie said. “Everybody deserves that.”
Guthrie told KOIN 6 News she is worried she and her husband will be the only ones at the funeral.
“We probably will be, but two is better than none,” she said.