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Strangers honor unclaimed veteran laid to rest in East Tennessee

The Tri-County Veterans Honor Guard worked to invite community members to pay their respects.
Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 9:27 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Charles Sides of Maynardville, an 84-year-old veteran was laid to rest at East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery on Thursday. According to his obituary, his parents passed away and there is no mention of a spouse or any children. The Tri-County Veterans Honor Guard worked to invite community members to pay their respects.

Dozens of people showed up to pay their respects, including 10-year-old Sarah Venable. She asked her mom Felicia if they could say goodbye to Sides.

“Both my grandad’s on my dad’s and my mom’s side served in the army and one of them sadly passed away from a heart attack and it’s really sad because I loved them both. Their sacrifice was very important because they want to make things safe,” said Venable.

Sarah has only heard stories about her grandfather Monty who served in Vietnam. Her other “grandaddy” is alive today and shares his war stories with her.

“We just felt like if it would have been one of our families somebody would have come and honored them,” said Felicia.

Veteran Johnny Garren says he’s tied to Sides because they both served.

“We’re all family. Anybody in the service, we’re family. I lost a brother and some of my friends I know I’ve lost,” said Garren.

Garren said it’s because of that family that he is alive.

“I thought about killing myself. My major talked me out of doing stuff, he was like a father to me,” said Garren.

He said he feels called to serve God and his country.

“Appreciate what these people do in the wars and stuff for you. I know, I’ve been through it,” said Garren.

The support from the community reminds him of the military motto “leave no man behind.”

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