ANDERSON CO., S.C. (WSPA) – Dozens of people gathered in Anderson County on Friday to honor and remember a homeless veteran who recently passed away.
7 News attended the funeral service for that veteran and talked to folks who came out to pay their respects.
“This morning, I wasn’t going to go because the weather was so bad,” Wally Therion said.
When Wally Therien woke up Friday morning, his plan to attend a funeral for a complete stranger started to sound like not such a good idea.
“Then, something started gnawing at me and I decided, ‘Well, maybe I’ll just go,'” he said. “I was raised in New England. That’s the capital of gross weather right there.”
When we asked Therien why he showed up for William Rowland’s funeral–a homeless man he never met–he said the answer was an easy one: Rowland was a fellow veteran.
“It’s the least I could do for Mr. Rowland. He should not have ended up homeless, on the street, dying the way he did. There should have been something much better available for a veteran,” Therien said.
And others who attended the service agreed.
“We’re all brothers, every one of us here,” David Smith said. “We fought for the country, we fought for our freedom, and this is what we’re here for.”
Private Second Class William Rowland served his country in the 1970’s.
“Being in the military and being a veteran is not exactly what you see in the movies,” Therien said. “That’s glamorized quite a bit.”
Rowland died in November, at the age of 64, without a home.
“No one should end up like that,” Therien said.
But broad stripes and bright stars were gallantly streaming for Rowland as he was laid to rest on Friday with military honors.
His family, friends, and many community members were in attendance for the special service.
“Sounded like a very, very sad ending for a very nice life–well, I don’t know about nice, but certainly a very service-filled life,” Therien said.
Therien told 7 News it saddened him to know there are still many homeless veterans on our nation’s streets; and he told us that was a big reason why he attended Rowland’s memorial.
“Hey, you’ve got to stand up for what you think is right and follow through, and this is what I hope I’m doing today,” he said.
Rowland’s ceremony was provided by the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Program, which has performed more than 2,000 services for homeless vets since the year 2000.