Family of unclaimed veteran found just in time for funeral

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HIGGINSVILLE, Mo. -- The flag Vietnam veteran Dennis Gray fought for was presented to his family during his funeral Wednesday afternoon. However, it's a moment that almost didn't happen.

"We've been searching for him over 20 years," Patricia Roberts, Gray's niece, said.

Roberts said her uncle suffered from PTSD after serving in the Vietnam War, and that condition caused Gray to live a life on the move.

"We would not see him for five or 10 years at a time and one day we would wake up around the holidays and he'd be standing in a park across the street staring at the house," Roberts said.

Pettis County Coroner Robert "Skip" Smith said he spent hundreds of hours searching for the 65-year-old's family after Gray's death in December.

"We`ve spent almost three months trying to track down family without any luck at all. A lot of the information we were given over the course of time was incorrect." Smith said. "It's always frustrating because you know they have someone out there that cares about them somewhere."

Fearing the worst, Smith called for the services of the Patriot Guard Riders to ensure that Gray was buried with the honor he deserved.

"The call goes out that there is a veteran who has a service and all those that can come to honor that veteran. We anticipated that we would be standing in as his family but we are very very happy that some family was located and we will be here to support them," Randy Vogel, Senior Ride Captain for the Patriot Guard Riders, said.

It's a support that Gray's family is forever grateful to receive.

"We are amazed at the turnout. I'm amazed at what people have done for him. We wouldn't have been able to afford this." Roberts said. "It's amazing and we're glad that we made it and we are glad that we were found. We loved him very much and we missed him for a long time."

Gray was cremated and was laid to rest alongside almost 4,000 fellow veterans at Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville.