Detective makes sure family-less vet receives proper burial
No one seems to know a lot about the life of Robert Garrad Jr., but he received a hero’s welcome in death at the Virginia Veteran’s Cemetery in Amelia Thursday, March 25.
Garrad, a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division as a paratrooper, died by suicide Jan. 12 in a Farmville hotel room. After no family was to be found, the veteran was headed for a burial with no fanfare until fellow veteran and Farmville Police Department Detective Sammy Entrekin stepped in to make sure Garrad received the honors he deserved on his way to his final resting place.
American flags lined the driveway in front of the Amelia Veteran’s Center at the end of a procession that transported Garrad’s remains from Farmville to Amelia, as fellow veterans and law enforcement officers came together to honor one of their own.
Entrekin said it quickly became apparent while investigating Garrad’s death that locating any family members would be difficult, and there would be no one to claim the remains.
“Realizing that he was a veteran, we decided that the only right thing to do was to make sure that he be properly interred with military honors,” Entrekin said after Thursday’s ceremony. “Working in conjunction with the sheriff’s office, we had the remains taken care of, and here we are.”
Entrekin is a veteran himself, having served in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in Germany from 1998 to 2002. His wife Shannon is also a veteran. She works in the Army surgeon general’s office.
“Our whole family is a veteran family. My dad is a Vietnam vet,” Entrekin said. “I could not imagine nobody claiming my father.”
Farmville Police Chief Andy Ellington said Entrekin came to him suggesting the department request permission to help give the veteran a proper burial.
“It was a sense of emotion that I’ve never felt in my career when Detective Entrekin came to my office and told me what was going on, what he would like to do in seeing that this veteran got a proper burial,” Ellington said. “Each morning I’ve woken up ever since, I just can’t describe the emotion that I feel, the excitement that I’ve had and the proudness that I’ve had for this detective and for what he has done for this veteran who served the United States of America.”
Jim McGinley, of the Patriot Guard Riders, said Garrad’s situation of a veteran who dies with no family members is not common but does occur occasionally. This is the first such ceremony his group has been a part of this year but the group typically has three or four such ceremonies per year at the Amelia Veteran’s Cemetery.