DILLSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Hundreds of people up and down the East Coast volunteered to get a Vietnam War veteran’s ashes back home Saturday.
Patriot Guard Riders escorted the remains of Corporal James Gartland from the Carolinas to Dillsburg, Pennsylvania.
“I just cannot tell you how awesome it feels to be able to return a loved one to their family,” said Stacey Buckner, who organized the event.
“I’m just totally overwhelmed,” said Joe Gartland, James’ youngest brother.
Joe Gartland is thankful for the hundreds of veterans, local organizations and volunteers who escorted his brother’s ashes.
The family said they were told the remains were properly buried, and that they had no idea they were abandoned in a storage unit in South Carolina.
“This was all just in a ratty bag stuffed into the corner,” Buckner said.
That bag was given to Buckner, a veteran who works for the VA in North Carolina and founded the organization Off Road Outreach.
She contacted Gartland’s family and organized the ride to the VFW in Dillsburg.
“Coming into Maryland, into Pennsylvania, all of the overpasses were decorated with flags,” Buckner said. “Fire departments, law enforcement, first responders, all saluting.”
“The police officers picked up the convoy at the state line,” said David All, a Pennsylvania Patriot Guard Rider who was the road captain for the event.
It took a lot of coordination. Veteran Bobby Henline, who was deemed an American hero after a bomb burnt nearly 40% of his body, held a comedy show to raise funds.
“It’s about giving him some honor,” Henline said in an Instagram post.”It’s about helping a veteran who’s been left behind.”
Gartland, who grew up in Loysburg, served four years and died at age 68 in 2016.
“In Chambersburg for a while, in Shippensburg, then he ended up in the Carolinas,” Joe Gartland said.
“As a veteran myself, I think it’s important to show every respect and honor that we can,” All said.
It was one last honor for a veteran who was never forgotten.
“I think he’ll be at peace finally,” Joe Gartland said.
Gartland’s brothers say they plan to spread some of his ashes in areas he loved to fish.