Final Mile for an American hero

Pike County. VetStock provides a proper burial with honors for a combat veteran who outlived all of his loved ones.

| 28 Apr 2021 | 12:41

VetStock, a non-profit organization headquartered in Pike County, Pa., helped bring Colonel Taylor home.

A VetStock donation of $4,800 was made on April 15 to the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA 20-10) to cover all the costs of transporting combat veteran Wallace Anderson Taylor to his final resting place in Louisville, Kentucky.

Taylor served in World War II with the Army Air Corps, in 1942 and 1943, and during the Korean War in two campaigns, in 1951 and 1952. He served honorably and rose to the rank of Technical Sergeant (E7). After the war, he was commissioned by the Governor of Kentucky as a “Kentucky Colonel,” where he got his nickname, Colonel Taylor, by which he was known for the rest of his life.

Taylor was a Master Mason who made many contributions to his community, state, and country. He was a longtime patient of James A. Haley VA Hospital and was loved by many of the staff.

He outlived his family and was technically unclaimed. However, he left a legacy and let his wishes be known. The CVMA ensured that he would be taken home to Louisville, and that his final wishes would be honored.

The ride covered more than 2,000 miles round trip over four days, with regularly scheduled stops publicized to all CVMAs along the way with an invite to join the ride to honor Taylor. A secure police escort and various veteran service organizations were present along the route to show support.

The multi-day Final Mile escort began at Jennings Funeral Home in Sarasota, Florida, and proceeded to James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa, Florida. A Final Mile ceremony was held on April 16, followed by the journey to Kentucky, said CVMA 20-10 president and event coordinator Greg (Patches) Pelletier.

The funeral took place on April 18 at Resthaven Cemetery in Louisville.

“The CVMA provided the motorcycle escort for the entirety of the journey,” Pelletier said. “We provided no less than six riders and a recovery vehicle with motorcycle trailer and tools in case of a breakdown.”

VetStock co-founder Tom Ryan participated in the first leg of the journey. On April 16 he drove his motorcycle to Tampa from Dade City, Florida, along with Jim (Strapper) Strasser, VetStock Florida representative.

“The intent was to pay our respects to Taylor and participate in the first leg of the journey back to Kentucky,” Ryan said. “From the moment I arrived, I was struck by the respect and honor that was shown to Taylor. About 35 to 40 members of CVMA 20-10 and 20-15 were on hand to participate in the service and complete the escort to his resting place in Kentucky.

“He was a decorated combat veteran. It was hard for me to understand that he had outlived all of his relatives, he was alone when he passed, and there was no one to claim his remains and provide a proper burial. I began to fill with great pride at what VetStock had done in donating the funds to cover the expenses of the trip. Colonel Taylor deserved the honor of a proper burial with honors in a place of his choosing.

“The emotions were real, we all felt it, another hero was going home with honors. I was profoundly honored to be part of the ceremony and escort, and especially proud that VetStock had provided the monies for our brothers and sisters from CVMA 20-10 and 20-15 to honor this veteran. To date, these chapters have provided escort and burial for 20 unclaimed veterans from the Tampa VA Hospital. No veteran deserves to be alone or deprived of a burial without family.”

Since 2012, VetStock has provided financial help to vetted, legitimate veteran organizations, such as CVMA, that empower, enrich and improve the lives of our veterans.

“We are a team of volunteers who are passionate and dedicated to making sure that access to appropriate support and services is always available,” said Ryan, “We are deeply committed to our motto: We do it for the vets.”

Connect with VetStock on Facebook @ VetStockAmercia.

“He was a decorated combat veteran. It was hard for me to understand that he had outlived all of his relatives, he was alone when he passed, and there was no one to claim his remains and provide a proper burial.” VetStock co-founder Tom Ryan