One St. Louis-area Vietnam veteran was given a hero’s farewell, even after he left this world alone.
Glenn Emerson Cook, who served his country in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, recently died at the age of 70. Not much is known about him, except that after his passing, he bequeathed some or all of his estate to the BackStoppers Inc., an organization which supports the surviving spouses and children of firefighters, police, and other first responders who are killed in the line of duty.
When folks at BackStoppers discovered that Cook died without friends or family, they immediately attempted to repay him by contacting Michel Funeral Home in St. Louis, Missouri, an establishment known for providing respectful memorials for veterans who died alone.
Michel Funeral Home, in turn, solicited help from the local community to help honor a fallen serviceman.
“REMINDER,” the funeral home posted to Facebook on Monday, “Tomorrow we are going to inter Vietnam Veteran Glenn Cook at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at 11:30 a.m. He will receive full military honors. This veteran has no family (unclaimed veteran). If you can please try to attend these funeral services tomorrow. No veteran should be laid to rest with no one in attendance.”
And the public responded. Nearly 60 people from all walks of life — including Patriot Guard Riders, members of the local American Veterans chapter, fellow veterans, and other residents of goodwill — withstood the Missouri heat at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery to pay their respects to Cook.
“It’s always surprising the turnout for someone they don’t know,” said Calvin “Mort” Whittaker, a member of AMVETS Post 6 and co-owner of Michel Funeral Home. “They understand this vet has done something for this country. They understand this is a little piece they can do for them. Our hearts are always with our veterans. Whether they are fighting for our country or we are laying them to rest. We feel they’ve given so much of their lives, this is just a small thank you for them. They shouldn’t be left alone at the end of their life.”
BackStoppers board member Dan Raniere was likewise overwhelmed by the turnout.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “We thought there’d be five or six of us here today. But that’s St. Louis.”
“But everybody here today was his family,” Raniere added. “They were all sharing in his life.”
Cook was cremated and then interred on Tuesday with full military honors, complete with a 9-gun salute and a bugle version of “Taps.” There is no known picture of Cook, either from his time in the service or later in life.
Two other veterans with no known relatives or friends were also buried at Jefferson Barracks that day. Michel Funeral Home has provided memorials for either nine or 10 veterans without family in the last six years.