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Veteran found dead under Columbia bridge to get final salute after he was ‘unclaimed’

VIDEO: Fort Jackson National Cemetery

Volunteers planted flags at Fort Jackson National Cemetery, Friday, May 22, 2015, in preparation for Memorial Day in Columbia, SC. The demand for burials at the cemetery continues to increase. (Video by Gerry Melendez)
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Volunteers planted flags at Fort Jackson National Cemetery, Friday, May 22, 2015, in preparation for Memorial Day in Columbia, SC. The demand for burials at the cemetery continues to increase. (Video by Gerry Melendez)

A U.S. Army veteran whose body was found under a Columbia bridge will get a “final salute” after his family could not be found, the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Program said Wednesday.

A funeral has been arranged at Fort Jackson National Cemetery for Joseph Williams and another Midlands veteran, funeral director William Lynch said in the group’s news release.

Lynch said Williams and Danny Ballantyne were “unclaimed veterans,” according to the news release.

Williams was found dead under the Blossom Street bridge, Lynch said.

His body was discovered April 1, which was “a day or so” after he died of natural causes, the Richland County Coroner’s Office said according to WACH.

Lynch said Williams “honorably served his country” as a member of the Army from 1978-81, but no relatives could be located, according to the news release.

The Coroner’s Office said it was only able to identify Williams, 58, by examining his fingerprints, WACH reported.

Although no family has come forward, Lynch said in the news release that it is his “honor” to provide a final salute for Williams and Ballantyne.

A funeral will be held at Fort Jackson on May 8, following a procession that will start from the Caughman-Harman Funeral Home’s Lexington Chapel, according to the news release. Members of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office, Richland County Sheriff’s Office and the Patriot Guard Riders will provide an escort during the procession, Lynch said in the release.

Like Williams, no family could be found to take care of Ballantyne’s funeral arrangements, according to the news release.

The Sumter County Coroner’s Office said Ballantyne died April 30, after he served in the U.S. Marines from 1962-65 and rose to the rank of lance corporal, and was honored with a Good Conduct Metal, Lynch said in the release.

Members of the community are encouraged to attend the 11 a.m. funeral, where they will serve as family, according to the news release.

Local Patriot Guard Riders bring the unclaimed remains of 20 deceased veterans from across the Mid-Columbia to their final resting place at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery as part of the Missing in America project.

Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.

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