Unclaimed Vietnam Veteran, longtime Newport resident, laid to rest with proper honors

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – An unclaimed Vietnam veteran and longtime Newport resident was laid to rest at a ceremony on Monday.

Specialist Fifth Class Thomas Saulsbury was laid to rest at the East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetary on Monday, and given the proper military honors he deserved, despite having no family to claim him.

“All these people weren’t veterans, a lot of them were family of veterans or just people who think veterans are important and it’s important to honor veterans and they showed up here,” said Capt. Reid Gerhardt, President of the East Tennessee Veterans Honor Guard.

Born in Batavia, New York, Saulsbury was a 20-year resident of Newport before he passed away on July 5 with no family to claim him.

Monday’s proper sendoff was in large part thanks to Michael Powell, Saulsbury’s next-door neighbor turned good friend for the last four months of his life, keeping the last promise Saulsbury would hear.

When Powell had not seen Saulsbury for nearly a week he stopped by to check in on him and a friendship was forged.

“He was a pretty quiet guy and if he chose to talk to you and open up you then you needed to choose to listen because everything he said had a little meaning to it,” Powell said. “We just talked and hit it off, we’d talk about simple stuff, a lot of stuff didn’t even matter it was irrelevant, but that little bit of time hanging out I made a promise to him that I’d see him to the end so here we are.”

Sp5 Saulsbury served in Vietnam from July 1970 through June of 1971 before he was honorably discharged in 1972. He was the recipient of the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal w/60 Device and 2 O/S Bars.

“Good people deserve good things man, and I mean going out as an unclaimed veteran? He served for our country, he served overseas so this was the least I could do for him,” said Powell. “I wish I could do more.”

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