Posted By: 7-DEC-13
DALLAS, Texas - Don Hart was a homeless man who lost his way in the world, but was finally found.
He now rests among the neat rows of markers at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. He received a military funeral Thursday afternoon, with gratitude from soldiers and veterans who never knew him thanks to LTC-Chaplain Billy Corn and others who have made it their mission to take care of these heroes. LTC Corn has for years quietly and without fanfare made it a priority in his life to ensure these homeless veteran were not alone when laid to rest.
More than two dozen Patriot Guard Riders paid respects. An honor guard folded the flag. "Nobody knows this man here. Not one of us,” said Patriot Guard Ride Captain Rick Crabb. “But he's home with heroes now." The honors were earned a lifetime ago in Vietnam -- that much we know. "We know he's an Army vet. We know he served honorably from '71 to '73,"
And they were mourners, though strangers. “I’m just so sad this man had no family to be found. We’re his family,” Linda Tinnerman said. Tears dripped from beneath her sunglasses. She received the folded flag, just as she received her husband’s flag nearly nine years ago. We've learned that Don Hart was well known as “JD” on the streets and in the shelters in Fort Worth and Dallas. And that a formerly-homeless friend took him in just hours before Hart died. "He was looking pretty sick," Chester Williams told us. "He was a friend of mine. A real good friend of mine.”
Williams said he found Don Hart sitting outside the VA hospital one day in late September. "So I told him, 'JD, why don't you come to the house and clean yourself up?' He said, 'OK,'" Williams said.
Williams said his friend “liked a ruckus,” but was kind. That he took to sleeping outside because he didn’t like shelter rules. Caseworkers who tried to get “JD” off the streets preferred to call him private. They liked him. Williams said he cooked Hart dinner the night he died.
“I was reading my Bible,” Williams said, “and he said, 'Why don’t you just read it out loud?'” He said Hart fell asleep on the sofa. Sometime in the night, he passed away. The cause of death was heart disease. No next of kin were found. "He died at peace,” Chester Williams said. “You could tell, he died at peace." Williams is glad his friend got a dignified burial. “It’s a very peaceful place,” he said. “Very honorable place. I’m glad he’s finally home.” Don Hart was 62. He is no longer homeless thanks for LTC Corn and others who will always remember.