Photo of veteran without a coffin creates outrage

CATOOSA COUNTY, Ga. - A photo posted on Facebook showing a veteran's body on a gurney, draped in an American flag without a coffin, has sparked outrage from thousands on social media.

The picture was taken during the visitation for veteran George Taylor at Heritage Funeral Home. The post has been shared more than 2,000 times as of Friday afternoon.

[It's] disgraceful to us, the family, the American people," said brother Rick Taylor, who took the photo that has gone viral. He said family members were struggling to afford payments for funeral arrangements; the funeral home said different family members were in charge of decisions for arrangements and approved the setup seen in the photo. 

Taylor tells Fox Atlanta, some family members were upset by the way their loved one's body was displayed, and were so offended they left the visitation room. 

The 71-year-old George Taylor passed away Monday. His family said he served in the U.S. Army for 15 years, and did two tours in the Vietnam War.

Fox Atlanta spoke to Ben Friberg, a Managing Partner at Heritage Funeral Home who released the following statement:

"A lot of inaccuracies are being shared via social media.  We did everything as we were instructed to do by the family. Every family we serve has a way and reason for why they want to do things. We do that because it's an honor for us to serve all families. Money is not an issue. Money is never an issue for why we should serve a family. Our hearts are broken with how we've been portrayed by the news and social media. Family members have gone on record to say our funeral home has done nothing wrong. We take the utmost care and dignity, and there was never anything done because of negligence."

Friberg also told FOX 5, the home met with immediate family members, who approved of the visitation arrangement, and staff even added the American flags and military symbols. Friberg also told FOX 5, the family wanted a small private viewing, and that it is not uncommon for bodies to be displayed this way.

After criticism of the visitation arrangement sparked social media outrage, Friberg said the home met with family again and arranged for Mr. Taylor to be displayed in a silver steel casket for the funeral.

Funeral services were held in Fort Oglethorpe, and the interment followed at the Chattanooga National Cemetery with Military Honors.

Taylor was of Baptist faith, and is survived by his wife, Patricia Taylor Ringgold, two sons, James and Jerry Taylor, his brother, Ricky Taylor, and sister-in-law, Beverly Ringgold.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Paralyzed Veterans of America, 7 Mill Brook Road, Wilton, NH 03086.

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