NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A soldier without any known family received an emotional farewell Thursday in Middle Tennessee from hundreds of people he never met.
“We can’t let a veteran be by himself, even in death, ” said Sylvia Melton of her fellow veteran Lyndon Badgett who died this week without any known family members or even close friends.
Melton lived next door recently to the 57-year-old Air Force veteran at the Tennessee State Veterans home in Clarksville.
There were sporadic stories about Badgett from a few in the crowd who knew him in his last months, but over and over again, many there said they “did not want him to go out alone.”
The words at the service were spare, much like what was known of the veteran’s life.
Wade Winkler of the Gateway Funeral Home said it “was the first time he has handled such a funeral for a soldier” without known family members present, but he did indicate “a woman from the Knoxville area said she was the soldier’s daughter.”
Winkler added that she only learned of Badgett’s death from news accounts, but could not make to the funeral.
The funeral home performed the service at no cost.
Some at the Middle Tennessee State Veteran’s ceremony said they came from hundreds of miles away.
They filled a chapel on the ground while hundreds of other mourners–many of them soldiers past and present–remained outside paying their respects.
Others like Michelle Totty from nearby said she “had to come” because her father and stepfather are buried in the same cemetery.
Mt. Juliet teacher Sandy Elliott said she heard Badgett’s name on the news Thursday morning and realized they went to high school together in Maryville, Tennessee.
“I grabbed my yearbook from high school, found his picture and said that is my Lyndon, “she added.
“We were in the band together. He played the saxophone,” Elliott said before the ceremony, which included military honors from the Air Force and Patriot Guard.
Badgett’s classmate expressed sadness that she knew nothing of his life after high school, but knew she had to be there as one of the few who actually knew Badgett.
“I am a high school teacher. Went to school today, told my principal I have to go, I have to be there,” said Elliott.
Along with the soldiers past and present making up most of the mourners, there were a few veterans like Sylvia Melton who were with Badgett at the state veterans home until he recently moved into another care center.
“We knew him. We used to talk to him, “added Melton. “He did not come out much, but we would try to mess with him and get him alive.”
Now in death, Lyndon Badgett is remembered like he probably never imagined.
“And he has a family now,” said Michelle Totty about Lyndon Badgett.
He will now rest in the same veterans cemetery as her father and step-father.