By Ms. Dawn M Arden (Leonard Wood)August 31, 2017
It was standing room only at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery - Fort Leonard Wood Aug. 24 as service members from all branches joined community members to pay their final respects to an unaccompanied veteran who most had never met.
Chief Petty Officer Arthur "Bill" Craft joined the United Stated Navy after graduating high school in 1958. Craft was a Vietnam veteran and retired after devoting more than 20 years of service to his country.
He was laid to rest in the presence of his fellow military brothers and sisters who came out to ensure he was paid the proper respects, representing the strong connection between those who serve and for Family who were unable to attend.
"We're here to pay our respects to a passing Navy veteran," said Marine Staff Sgt. Timothy Cruz, who added he finds comfort in the amount of support shown by the community. "Regardless of service or background, we are all together and willing to support each other."
Cemetery director Charles Baxter said Craft has one elderly sister living out of state who was unable to attend, leaving him with no one to accompany him to his final resting place. So the call was put out for community support.
"We have an unwritten policy that no veteran is interred here alone," Baxter said. "They served their country for a number of years, in this case he was a retiree. We like to at least let them be sent on their way with some acknowledgment of what it is they've done."
According to Baxter, the response from Fort Leonard Wood and the surrounding communities is very good.
"It's the community," Baxter said. "Being in the military, you have that certain connection with all of these brothers and sisters who have served together, so to be out here you are amongst people who you know, even if you've never met them before."
Sailors from the Navy Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering Detachment, Fort Leonard Wood, supported the services, and the funeral was officiated by Navy Chaplain (Lt.) Jeremy Bennett, detachment chaplain.
Bennett said Craft was a fellow Sailor and retired veteran who was a great example of service.
"The life lived and the commitment upheld by Chief Petty Officer Arthur Craft serves as reminders to us here that our work and labors are not yet finished," Bennett said. "For each of us who have served, may our lives be one that continues to honor his memory."