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Scores attend funeral of unaccompanied veteran

Muskogee Phoenix - 1/27/2024

Jan. 27—FORT GIBSON — Porter High School junior Addison Criner joined scores of others at the funeral of U.S. Air Force veteran Sgt. Darrin Thurman at Fort Gibson National Cemetery.

"It was a very good opportunity to pay our respects to someone we didn't know, but fought on our behalf, and didn't know us," Criner said.

People who would have been strangers to Sgt. Thurman stood in Friday morning's mist to honor the unaccompanied veteran.

Cemetery Director David Van Meter said Thurman had family in Michigan, but they were unable to come to the funeral because of weather conditions.

"So we put the word out so all his brothers and sisters in arms could come out and support this person," Van Meter said. "The cemetery will host funerals for unaccompanied veterans a couple times a month, along with direct interment."

He said family members back in Michigan requested the Air Force honors be recorded.

Van Meter said the cemetery announced the service through social media.

About 30 Porter Troop Support Club members, including Addison, attended the service.

Troop Support Club sponsor Tonya Broyles, a junior high math teacher, said a Porter resident tagged the club in a Facebook post about the service.

"We talked to our superintendent yesterday, and he said 'load the bus,'" Broyles said, adding she hoped the funeral shows students "that people have paid the ultimate price for our freedom."

Angela Folks of American Legion Post 27 in Sallisaw, said Thurman's funeral was the eighth or ninth unaccompanied veteran's service she has attended.

"We attend all of these whenever we are notified," said Folks, who retired from the U.S. Navy. "We always want to honor any of our fellow veterans."

A container with Thurman's ashes was carried to the cemetery's committal shelter, accompanied by two U.S. Air Force honor guards.

A eulogist said Thurman was a "dedicated patriot" who began serving in the U.S. Air Force in 1980.

"He devoted some of his life to service during Operation Desert Storm as a ground radio communication flight simulator specialist, he demonstrated his commitment to excellence in his chosen field," the eulogist said. "Though he will no longer be with us in person, his memory will live on in the hearts of those who knew him. May we find solace in the knowledge that he served his country with honor and made a positive impact on the lives of those around him.

"As we lay him to rest, let us remember the joy that he brought and may we honor his memory by living our own lives with that same sense of dedication, service and love."

The honor guards unfolded and refolded the American flag, creasing each fold with precision.

Members of Patriot Guard Riders also accompanied Thurman to the funeral.

Rider Michael McCauley told the attendees "may your pain be tempered by the knowledge that Sgt. Darrin Thurman, U.S. Army Air Force is a true American hero."

Cindy Scarbrough, an Oklahoma Army National Guard veteran, came from Yukon.

"I've got family buried here alone," Scarbrough said. "I feel that no vet should be buried alone, and I feel there is a good showing here today."

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