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Ashes of Marine vet left behind in storage rental to receive proper burial

A Vietnam veteran’s remains will be buried at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton. (Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

An urn with the ashes of a decorated U.S. veteran found left behind at a local self-storage facility in an unpaid unit will now receive a proper burial.

About six months ago, Cherokee County Veterans Program director Jim Lindenmayer received a call from U-Haul Storage in Canton that an urn with the ashes of a veteran were left behind in an unpaid storage unit by the veteran’s daughter.

“I was shocked,” Lindenmayer said. “It was one of (those) things you don’t anticipate. I have never seen and people I have talked to have never seen the remains of a human whether it’s a veteran or non-veteran left in a storage locker. It’s beneath human dignity to do something like that.”

Lindenmayer said it took about six months to identify Cpl. Charles Dean Hughes, a decorated Vietnam veteran, through his service records.

“We could not determine if he was honorably discharged or not to bury him in the Georgia National Cemetery,” he said. “With the help of the marshal’s and sheriff ‘s offices we were finally able to find his Social Security number to get his service record.”

After Hughes’ service records were located, Lindenmayer reached out to former county commissioner and owner of Poole Funeral Home in Woodstock, Brian Poole, who offers a free and proper burial to homeless veterans.

“The reason I went to Brian is because of the program he has out there to bury homeless veterans,” Lindenmayer said. “We don’t ask for a lot. (Hughes) just deserved a little bit of respect at the end of his life. We are thankful the county has programs like this and people care about it, otherwise he would have been thrown in the trash and nobody would have even known.”

Poole said there are numerous veterans in Cherokee County that need help such as Hughes.

“These men and women have fought for our country and freedom and this is the least we can do to honor their lives and their service to this great nation,” he said. “We are thankful to Jim Lindenmayer and his American Legion post for what they do for veterans.”

The Cherokee County Marshal’s Office was able to locate identifying information and found Hughes to be a Marine corporal flight engineer aboard a KC130 in Vietnam with a number of service awards, including a National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Air Medal and Combat Crew Wings with Gold Star.

Hughes’ term of service was from 1967 to 1971, according to Cherokee Chief Marshal Ron Hunton.

“Nothing shocks me anymore. I’m thankful Mr. Lindenmayer and Mr. Poole reached out to us and we were able to bring Marine Cpl. Hughes home to his military family.”

Hunton said his own father was a Korean War veteran who never talked to him about his service.

“These men were tough as saddle leather and they deserve our respect and honor,” he said.

Lindenmayer said Hughes was drafted in the early 1960s and did not have the option of whether he wanted to enter the war.

“He did what he was asked to do by his government and he’s owed a little bit of respect for what he did,” he said. “He incurred injuries when he was assigned to the military and was what you call a service connected disabled veteran. This is a guy who gave his time and life to the country and he needs to be treated with respect at the end.”

The burial is scheduled for Wednesday at noon at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton. The U.S. League Detachment will perform a Burial Ritual.

Poole Funeral Home will donate its services for the burial of Hughes.

“It’s really unfortunate in this country that our veterans are in this situation like Mr. Hughes,” Poole said. “As long as my family and I are in this business we will do all we can to honor these veterans in a respectful and dignified way.”

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