A World War II veteran from New Jersey was honored by dozens of strangers at his funeral on Tuesday.
According to NBC News, 100-year-old Eugene Dednam died alone in his Hackensack home in April. While the Bergen County native was penniless without any friends or family around, a group of local veterans wanted to ensure that Dednam received the proper send-off he deserved.
“He was very proud to serve, and he emphasized to me when he passes away that he wanted to be buried in his uniform,” longtime neighbor Deshaune Hicks said.
The funeral service was held in Paramus, prompting dozens of visitors to pay their respects to one American hero they would never forget.
During his time in the army, Dednam participated in the Red Ball Express and drove supply trucks to the front lines as they battled against Nazi Germany. As a result, the 100-year-old received countless medals for his heroic efforts in the war.
After returning home, Dednam worked at Macy’s in New York City. Though he never married or had children, his funeral was delayed a month because he had no relatives to claim him.
“Mr. Dedham was a person who pretty much stayed to himself. He was very reserved, very quiet in that regard. He liked to do things on his own,” said neighbor DeShaun Hicks.
Since Dednam lived in anonymity, the medical examiner conducted a thorough search to identify the veteran. Funeral director Brian Warner and county officials decided to honor him with a military burial free of charge, per CBS News.
“It’s just, for me, it’s a small expression of appreciation to a generation that’s almost gone,” Warner told the outlet.
The local veterans and attendees celebrated Dednam, who was buried in the military uniform he proudly wore during World War II.
“He wouldn’t talk too much about what happened, but he was proud to serve, very proud to serve,” said Hicks. “The world needed to see this, people need to see this, that people are coming together for one common cause, and that’s to honor people that are living and that passed away.”
Shaun Hutchinson, Bergen County’s Director of Veterans Affairs and former Army Ranger, praised the African American soldier who fought in a segregated war.
“A lot of them, including Mr. Dednam, he was a Black American, and he didn’t get the respect he deserved when he was home, and probably when he was serving,” said Hutchinson.