Two-year fight for veteran's proper burial

Fight for veteran's proper burial

LITTLE ELM, Texas -- A veteran named Franklin Jarrett Jr. will be buried Thursday morning at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.

His sister in Little Elm is still trying to get an acceptable answer why this re-burial took nearly two years to happen.

WFAA told you recently about the alarming number of veterans in the United States given indigent burials because investigators are unable to find any family members to notify. Catherine Irving called WFAA with another version of that aggravating story.

"He was a little redhead. You can see in his pictures he remained a redhead,” Irving said of her younger brother, Franklin Jarrett Jr.

The retired veteran lived in San Antonio until the day an ambulance took him to Christus Santa Rosa Westover Hills Hospital. What happened next is unclear. His death certificate lists his death as “natural” with hypovolemia, anemia, gastric ulcers and chronic liver cirrhosis listed as contributing causes.

He was 63 years old. It was August 2, 2015.

"There's just a lot of things that don't jive,” his sister said.

Because even though Jarrett called the ambulance to pick him up at his own home, walked to the ambulance under his ownpower reportedly with his house keys, his cell phone, and his wallet, his death certificate listed his address as unknown. Next of kin were not notified and he was buried in a pauper's grave in Von Ormy 20 miles outside of the city.

And Irving says the extended family didn't find out until they filed a missing person report two weeks later. Within 48 hours, police told them where they could find his grave.

"You don't even get a chance to say goodbye. I knew my brother had problems,” Irving said of psychiatric issues and estrangement from his own children. “There's a lot of guilt. He was buried without the honors."

She says that was just the start of the aggravation. The family asked that the remains of the Vietnam-era veteran be moved to Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, to be buried near his father.

"We kept complaining. We kept pushing," Irving said. 

Correspondence with the hospital and funeral homes indicate that the proper permits were eventually filed and that the hospital agreed to cover costs.

Nothing happened for nearly two years. Email correspondence indicates the disinterment permit required to be filed with Texas Vital Statistics wasn’t received by the state until December of 2016.

"It's just been painful for every member of the family right down to the grandchildren. Even ones that haven't met him. It's a horrifying story."

At the time of this report, News 8 was unable to reach the hospital or Bexar County and its Pauper Burial Program for an explanation. But VA sources tell WFAA it's a process that should have taken just a few days, not months or years.

"And it was up to us to try to stand up for him,” Irving said.

And because they did, Franklin Jarrett Jr. is finally being re-buried Thursday morning at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

"You never stop remembering somebody you've lost through death. It's sort of like a scar. The scar gets thicker and the wound gets not quite so tender. And this wound stays tender because our brother wasn't treated right," Irving said. 

"It's sort of like we've finally kept our promise to our brother," she said. 

A big sister and the rest of a veteran’s extended family would still like someone to explain why it's a promise that took nearly two years to fulfill.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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