Complete strangers help lay WWII veteran to rest in Salisbury

A special ceremony was held in Salisbury Friday for a World War II veteran who passed away, with no next of kin to claim him.

The flag-draped coffin of Purple Heart recipient Houston Howell Jr. left Kannapolis with dozens of military brothers and sisters in tow. They were all heading to his final resting place at the Salisbury National Cemetery.

"This whole day means a celebration of Mr. Houston Howell Jr. A man who served this country with pride and dignity,” said Anthony Brown, a Kannapolis funeral director who helped plan the ceremony after a phone call from the local VA.

Houston Howell Jr. passed away December 7. He was homeless and spent the last 3 months of his life at the Salisbury VA Hospital. No one stepped forward to claim his body, so that's when Anthony Brown stepped in. He worked the phones to put together a ceremony with full military honors.


"As a funeral director it makes me feel that I know I am doing my job for a person who served this country with dignity and pride,” said Brown.

"Any veterans not taken care of, we are going to take care of them,” said one veteran at the ceremony.

Not related by blood, but brothers and sisters in the armed forces, gathered in force to get results for Houston one last time.

"I know veterans and I knew they would show up.”

Among the hundreds of others military men and women resting at the cemetery, Houston won't be alone.

"Yes. I will come visit him often."