Will Melvin Shegog was laid to rest Wednesday with full military honors thanks to A.L. Moore-Grimshaw Mortuary and the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program.
Shegog died on Feb. 15, 2019, and was an unclaimed veteran. No family members came to collect his remains—until Shegog's niece showed up at the funeral Wednesday.
One by one, people from across the Valley from all walks of life came to honor a man who devoted part of his life to serving his county.
"He loved his family. And so I'm just grateful we were able to be here, to honor and celebrate him, and for everyone that's here to support him is absolutely amazing and tremendous," said Shegog's niece, Carol Shegog Parker.
Shegog was born in Illinois and lived in the Phoenix area after serving in the U.S. Air Force from June 1978 through Sept. 1979.
Parker said her uncle was a private man. She didn't know much about his military service.
Parker said the fact that her uncle was homeless never got in the way of their relationship.
"We never talked about that. I just met him where he was and loved him right where he was," she said.
During the procession, the Patriot Guard Riders escorted Shegog’s casket from A.L. Moore-Grimshaw Mortuary to the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.
"Homelessness in our country is unacceptable. It is truly unacceptable when it is a veteran because that veteran served to protect and serve all of us," said Tom Burns with the Patriot Guard Riders.
The burial ceremony was attended by a large crowd of veterans and mourners.
For Carol Shegog Parker, it was an overwhelming day of love and gratitude for a man she will never forget and the countrymen and women who didn't forget him either.
"He's definitely claimed, he's loved and he's named. His name is Will Melvin Shegog. He's my uncle, and I love him," Parker said.
It’s estimated there are about 900 homeless veterans living in Arizona. Across the country, that number is around 40,000.