Daughter gets help to bury her Army veteran father with military honors

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The last six weeks for Karen Welch have been stressful.

First, there was the death of her beloved father. Then, there were funeral arrangements to be made and a trip to Detroit where he lived.

Curtis Slay, a retired General Motors worker, left enough money for his daughter and son to pay for his funeral. But Karen wanted her father to be home in Knoxville where he grew up.

“My dad was great,” Welch said. “I was a daddy’s girl. And we made arrangements to bring him back home. So, he could be buried here where friends and childhood and everything. This is where he grew up at.

“This is his discharge papers. It says Curtis Lee Slay.”

Welch wanted him buried at the veterans cemetery in Knoxville where there would be no charge since her father was a veteran, he served nearly two years in the Army.

“The only thing holding things up with his burial is — the (Veterans Affairs) says they can’t find records of my father being in the Army. The only thing holding things up with his burial is — the VA  says they can’t find records of my father being in the Army.

Missing is a DD Form 214, which is a separation document which verifies a military member’s service for benefits and retirement. 

“This is his birth certificate that shows he was originally born (and named) Curley,” Welch said of her father. “He was born Curley Slay, but before he went into the Army he changed his name from Curly to Curtis. They say they don’t find any record of my father at all.”

Brian Buckmon is a funeral director at Patton Funeral Home and an Army veteran.

He told us, Slay’s arrangements were paid in full,  but when the remains and casket were brought to the funeral home, it was learned Slay could not be buried in a military cemetery.

“After trying to search diligently with the veterans cemetery to get a DD form 214, we had a copy of a discharge, but what the Veterans Administration was saying was that did not belong to him,” Buckmon said. “The Social Security numbers did not match up. So, therefore, we were not able to bury him in a veterans cemetery.”

However, Patton Funeral Home made arrangements at New Grey Cemetery in Knoxville as Slay’s final resting space. The cost to the family would be $2,800 and the funeral home deducted another $400. 

“A childhood friend got together with people in Londsdale community to raise money,” Buckmon said. “We’re just short of a little over 600 dollars to be able to lay him to rest.”

We told the story of Slay and his daughter to a church group. Immediately, out of their benevolence fund, they paid for opening and closing of the grave.

Karen’s tears of anguish have now been turned to tears of joy. As burial arrangements are being finalized at New Gray Cemetery.

The church that donated the money to pay for the opening and closing of the grave wants to remain anonymous. Welch is grateful for the generosity.

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