Ceremony honors life of homeless Charlotte County veteran

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Ceremony honors life of homeless veteran

SARASOTA, Fla. A homeless Army veteran’s life was honored at Sarasota National Cemetery on Wednesday.

Murray Norton Gilcrest, 64, spent his last days in Charlotte County and died in February. Gilcrest had no known next of kin to arrange a proper ceremony. But Charlotte Memorial Funeral Home stepped up to take care of the expenses, even donating an urn decorated with the American flag.

The funeral home also arranged for him to receive Army honors and a rifle salute by the American Legion on Wednesday.

Melissa Willits, who cared for Gilcrest during his final days, remembered him as always kind and willing to help other homeless people. As many as 39,000 veterans are homeless in the United States on any given night, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

“I think it’s very sad that they fought for our country and they’re just living in poverty or on the street in their tents.” Willits said.

A group of Army veteran motorcyclists called the “Freedom Riders” attended the ceremony to pay their respects.

“I always say if you put the uniform on, you’re assigned to die for this country,” said David Obermier, one of the Freedom Riders. “It’s a brotherhood of people and women too. It means so much to each and every one of us to do that.”

Gilcrest went into the Army in the 1970s and helped repair electrical instruments. He earned a national defense service medal and was recognized as a rifle sharpshooter, the funeral home said.

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