When VA nurse Carlotta Ransom went for a home visit to one of her patients, Durwood Whetstone, she learned of his passing from his roommate. Nobody knew where the coroner had taken his body. She was determined to find him and do something to honor him. Ransom called all the local funeral homes with no success.
She went back to the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center morgue and called the coroner. The coroner said, “We have been trying to contact his brother.” Carlotta provided the coroner with the correct number. After finding Whetstone and notifying his brother (and only relative) in Florida, Ransom began planning a funeral service.
According to Ransom, Whetstone did not have any family in Mississippi and she didn’t want him “thrown away.” She stepped up and became the family he didn’t have.
“He hardly ever accepted services from VA because he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. He always thanked me for coming by,” she said.
She obtained an American flag and, with the help of her co-workers, planned his funeral at a local funeral home in Jackson, Miss. The Mississippi Patriot Guard Riders stood a silent flag line. During the ceremony, Ransom was presented with the flag in the absence of his brother.
“We can make such a difference in the lives of Veterans by listening to them,” said Dr. David Walker, Medical Center Director. “We manage commitments, not people, and this was a way for us to honor our commitment to Mr. Whetstone. The VA is so much more than medicine.”
“May he rest in peace now at his final duty station.”
VA staff, Whetstone’s roommate, his pastor and the Patriot Guard Riders attended the service. One of the Patriot Guard Riders posted on Facebook that “it was a wonderful, heart-felt, honorable service for our Veteran brother. May he rest in peace now at his final duty station.”
Susan Varcie is a public affairs officer at the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi.