Hundreds of people paid tribute to "unclaimed" U.S. Air Force veteran

PHOENIX (AP/FOX 10) -- Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday to pay tribute to an Air Force veteran who passed away earlier in February.

The veteran, William Shegog, served in the Air Force from 1978 to 1979. He was originally from Illinois, and moved to the Valley more than 20 years ago. Shegog had no known family when he died, and after his death, several veterans organizations rallied together to honor this veteran one last time.

Shegog was given full military honors Wednesday morning at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona before being laid to rest. When Shegog passed away at the age of 59, he had no known family, was homeless and lived on the streets.

"Regardless of what circumstances the veteran was in later on in life, whether they were experiencing homelessness or in some other state, you know they served our country and that deserves to be acknowledged," said Terry Araman with Mana House.

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Hundreds of people, many complete strangers, made sure he didn't go alone. That is something Carol Shegog-Parker, Shegog's niece, is thankful for.

"For them to be here, they're extensions of our family and they're part of his brotherhood, his sisterhood so I just appreciate them being here," said Shegog-Parker.

Shegog-Parker says the family lost touch with Shegog many years ago, and she luckily got in contact with him a few years ago. Shegog-Parker was saddened to hear of his passing, but happy she found out before Wednesday's ceremony so she could attend. Shegog-Parker was, like many others, honored to pay tribute to her uncle, who she says was funny, had an excellent memory and loved his family.

"To be able to let people know that those who are living on the street matter," said Shegog-Parker. "They are somebody's brother, sister, cousin, uncle, aunt, daughter, son so it matters for us to acknowledge those that we see."

Shegog-Parker said her uncle would have appreciated the ceremony on Wednesday, but he would have thought it was too much, as Shegog-Parker said her uncle was a very humble and private person. Dignity Memorial covered the cost of the funeral.

Obituary for Will Melvin Shegog