MIDLAND, Texas — A growing problem in the Permian Basin has been veterans passing away and not receiving a proper sendoff, leaving them vulnerable to be remembered without the honors they deserve.
Two veterans from Midland recently passed away, and they are both labeled as “unattended veterans,” meaning they are now at risk of being buried in an unmarked grave.
"What’s the hardest is to raise the funds to get these veterans honored," said Military Veteran Peer Coordinator Jayni Whitefield.
David McGivney was a veteran who served from 1970 to 1974 and earned multiple medals while in the Air Force.
George Thomas was a veteran who served from 1984 to 1990 and earned multiple awards for his marksmanship while in the Marine Corps.
Both veterans have honorable discharges, meaning they had good standing and no misconduct during their careers, which qualifies them for their final resting place to be at a national cemetery that is completely military.
“You know, for their service and sacrifice we want to get them honored properly with the military honors and placed over in the national cemetery in Abilene," said Whitefield. "It’s best that they are properly reunited with their comrades over in a national cemetery for their service, because not every veteran actually qualifies to go to a national cemetery.”
Both Whitefield and LeAnne Thornton, the Veterans Outreach Programs Specialist at the Midland Vet Center, are veterans themselves who are veteran advocates in the Permian Basin, so they sympathize with these situations.
“I couldn’t imagine being in their shoes," said Whitefield. "I hope that if that was ever the case that I'd have an individual, similar to us, right, that advocates for me, because nobody wants to be alone, and for their service and sacrifice they deserve to be over there. They deserve to be honored and given that respect.”
American Heritage Cemetery and Funeral Home in Midland is the cemetery and funeral home partner, and they are proud to help provide their services.
“You know we try to partner with people in the community that are just as passionate as we are to provide good, dignified services to those who have nobody, especially our veteran community," said David Cole, President, Owner and Operator of American Heritage. "So it’s all just out of the good hearts of the community to help pay for the minimum cost to cover… to provide a dignified sendoff for a veteran.”
The total cost that needs to be raised for these veterans is $3,500, and that will cover the cremations and remembrance at the national cemetery in Abilene.
The community can donate money for the cost to American Heritage at their location off of Highway 1788, or by calling them at 432-563-9767.
Any extra funds will be used for the next “unattended veteran.”