NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – A homeless Vietnam War veteran was honored Wednesday by dozens of strangers who came out to honor his service to the country.
Billy W. Halstead was a Vietnam War era veteran who served from 1956 to 1960 in the United States Air Force. He had no known living family. Patriot Guard Rider Jerry Ashby said these ceremonies are important to honor veterans who put their lives on the line for the country.
"Someone needs to be here for these heroes," Ashby said. "We as Americans have a duty, to honor that sacrifice and service."
No pictures or memories could be traced from Halstead’s past. However, that did not stop the Patriot Guard Riders and Arkansans from coming out to salute the American hero.
"I feel like that's the least we can do is go and be a part of his family," Attendee Beverly Webb said.
Ashby said ceremonies for veterans are unfortunately more common than some may think, and they sometimes even go unnoticed.
“I’ve been to over 330 missions, and I couldn't tell you how many of them are indigent or have no family," he said.
Halstead served in the early days of the Vietnam War, so Wednesday was his day to finally be honored as a Vietnam War veteran.
“They were treated really, really rough when they came home,” Webb said. “I can at least make sure they're buried and given the respect they should've gotten when they came back."
“To me it’s an honor bound, and it’s duty bound for me to be here. It’s very therapeutic for me to be here in honor of others when in general, the Vietnam veterans were not honored when they came home,” Ashby said.
Although no loved ones were by his side, Billy W. Halstead’s service to this country will always be remembered.
“I hope he knows that he's not forgotten and that he never will be forgotten,” Attendee Jane Sims said. “He was honored today from those that don't know him, and he'll be honored from many more who don't know him."
Wednesday’s service was requested by the Natural State Funeral Home in Jacksonville. Organizers said they tried to find friends and family, but in the end could not find anyone.