Veteran Buried Thanks to Strangers Who Cared

William Martin Smith

That’s the name listed in the obituary. Hard to know if he went by William. Bill. Billy.

No one knows. Smith died alone. Sad truth is… the folks at Cherry Tree Nursing Center southeast of Pittsburgh say he didn’t have a visitor for three, maybe four years. He died there last week. He had no wife… no children… nobody. His obit describes him as An unclaimed U.S. Army veteran who has no next of kin or family.

Unclaimed Veteran.

Two words John Fabry considers unacceptable. They served their country. They deserve a proper burial, says Fabry.

The Fayette County funeral director is also the local coordinator for the

Missing in America Project

. Fabry is a modern day patriot. He’s also a private detective of sorts.

(John Fabry, left, has made it his mission to get military burials for vets who die without next of kin)

In Smith’s case… Fabry got the man’s name from the local coroner. He called the National Veterans Center. Experts there confirmed William Martin Smith was an Army Veteran. Fabry then scheduled a full military rites and honors funeral at the National Cemetery of The Alleghenies in Bridgeville PA, south of Pittsburgh.

Federal law passed in 2012 provides funds for the burial of veterans like Smith who have no known method of paying for the funeral. That’s more than 70 percent of vets.

“It’s the least I can do for our veterans and no one else will do it,” said Fabry.

(Smith was buried with full military honors)

Here at Sparkt…we had to help with this one. I put Fabry on my radio show.

We talked about William Martin Smith… the Unclaimed Veteran. We talked about service… country… America. We asked folks to show up at the funeral. They did. A lot of folks. People from all over the region… with hands over their hearts and tears in their eyes for a stranger.

It was Mother Theresa who said “The fruit of love is service…which is compassion in action.”

William Martin Smith is now buried with thousands of veterans… men and women who together served… now rest in peace together. My father and mother are among them. He may have died alone. But when it comes to saluting his service, turns out William Martin Smith had a lot of friends.

Read and watch more in Sparkt’s previous stories.

Dozens Answer Call To Celebrate Life Of Forgotten WWII Veteran

Missing in America: Thousands of Vets’ Remains Go Unclaimed

(Featured image: Joshua Seybert, Air Force/

About Marty Griffin
Marty is a past recipient of three prestigious Regional Emmys for Outstanding Investigative Reporting and also won a Broadcast Achievement Award for an undercover story about Michael Irvin and the Dallas Cowboys. He was named the Best Talk Show Host in Pittsburgh in 2008 for the Pittsburgh Achievement in Radio Awards. Marty shakes things up weekdays 9 am to noon on KDKA Radio.

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