SLIDELL -- For five years, Sunny Higgins-Trotter longed to see this moment for her friend John William Deacon, Jr.
He was a WWII Navy veteran with no known living relatives. So, as his caretaker, she kept his cremated remains by her side since his death.
"We didn't know what we were going to do with John's ashes because he wanted to be in a cemetery and have a military service, but I had no way of going about it," Higgins-Trotter said.
The Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery helped change that Wednesday with salutes from fellow veterans and support from a community that values the sacrifices of our military.
"Our feeling is a veteran took an oath to defend this country, fight for his country, die for his country, not to be forgotten by his country," said Air Force Vietnam Veteran Ed Lewis.
"I made a promise to the fellas that didn't make it, that if I did make it, I would come and represent those who didn't," said Army Vietnam Veteran Willie Brice, "For me, it's an honor for me to honor those who didn't make it."
Also honored Wednesday, Army Veteran Ronald Bernard Leone. The Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office worked to bring him to his final resting place here after his death in April. He had no known living relatives to claim him.
The experience was a learning moment for some and a moving one for others.
"We teach them to thank them for their service," Nicole Cox, referring to her children. "Today, we spent the morning packing boxes for our soldiers. And this afternoon we were planning on coming to visit the cemetery, learned there was a funeral going on, so we thought it'd be an amazing opportunity to teach our children about respect."
"It's all about our veterans and what they gave this country, and we can't forget them," said Linda McCain with Slidell Ladies for Liberty, "It's very important to support them."
© 2017 WWL-TV