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Permian Basin community honors two local veterans with sendoff they deserve

The two veterans were initially thought to have no next of kin, but it turns out they do have family who are incredibly grateful for the support.

MIDLAND, Texas — On Wednesday, it was thought that two local veterans who had recently passed away had no next of kin, which left them in need of funding to be honored the way they deserve to be.

However, both veterans actually do have family.

George Thomas was adopted at birth, and his biological mother and half sister both did not meet him until just before his 28th birthday.

Following on and off contact with him through the years, they both did not find out about his passing until they saw the story that NewsWest 9 aired on Wednesday.

David McGivney has a 21-year-old granddaughter who had been trying to raise the funds to give him the proper sendoff, but she was struggling under that financial burden.

She saw NewsWest 9's story as well, and that financial burden is now no longer a problem as the Permian Basin community has donated just under $15,000 of the $3,500 needed.

Jayni Whitefield and David Cole were two impactful people in getting these two local veterans the final sendoff they deserve.

Thomas served from 1984 to 1990 and earned multiple awards for his marksmanship while in the Marine Corps, and McGivney served from 1970 to 1974 and earned multiple medals while in the Air Force.

Both were at risk of being left in an unmarked grave, but the Permian Basin community stepped up to make sure that would not be the case.

“It’s overwhelming," said Cole, President, Owner & Operator of American Heritage Cemetery and Funeral Home. "Just the amount of outpouring, the love, the spoken words that came over the phone, the amount of people that were passionate about helping, about making sure that people were taken care of, it’s truly been amazing.”

It’s moments like these that make the effort worth it.

“This is why I do what I do, is to support these veterans and kind of be a voice," said Whitefield, Military Veteran Peer Network Coordinator. "This whole thing was, like I said, divine intervention of this all coming together, so, we’re just very appreciative and thankful for all the generosity that the community has given.”

And it’s that generosity that brought McGivney’s granddaughter to tears.

“I let her know about the funds that were available, and she has been struggling, has been trying to raise that money in different ways and things like that, and telling her over the phone, ‘it’s been covered, it’s been more than covered,’ I mean, there were tears immediately," said Cole.

A truly special conclusion to a story formed deep in the heart of West Texas.

“Thank you, thank you to the public," said Whitefield. "It could not have been possible. I mean we just do the behind-the-scenes work, and I’m telling you this is one of those story book endings [that] makes you love what you do kind of stories, and it’s definitely worth it.”

Both families are incredibly grateful for the support that will send these veterans to their final resting place with the military honors that they earned.

American Heritage Cemetery and Funeral Home will take care of the cremation services with the money donated, and the Military Veteran Peer Network will get these veterans over to the national cemetery in Abilene.

One person actually donated $7,000 by themselves, and that extra money will be used in other cases like these.

On behalf of NewsWest 9, thank you to our viewers and everyone who donated money and contributed to making this a reality.

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