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October 29, 2020

Vietnam veteran who died alone gets final tribute in Salisbury

By Maggie Blackwell

For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — Phillip Kenneth Drye died in Cabarrus County on Christmas Eve, and he was finally buried Wednesday at Salisbury National Cemetery.

Kailah Rose of Linn Honeycutt Funeral Home said no one was able to find friends or relatives of Drye. His body remained in cold storage until this week, when a caseworker from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs called the funeral home.

The caseworker told Rose that Drye was a Vietnam War veteran who served as an Army medic. He was homeless at the time of his death.

Rose’s boyfriend served in the Army, including three tours in Iraq. She took the situation personally.

“I made it my personal project to ensure that even though he died with nothing, he would get the decent burial that he deserves.” Rose said.

Drye was awarded a Bronze Star and the Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation. The Bronze Star indicates heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone. The Vietnam Gallantry Cross was awarded for deeds of valor or displaying heroic conduct while fighting the enemy. The Palm badge indicates his Gallantry Cross was at the highest level awarded.

Rose used social media and personal contacts to reach out to the American Legion and Patriot Riders. In response, she says, she received “a beautiful outcry” of support.

Linn Honeycutt Funeral Home donated the casket, Rose said.

Under warm and sunny skies Wednedsay, Phillip “Flip” Drye was laid to rest with more than 100 onlookers supporting him. Motorcycles rumbled as the Catawba Patriot Riders and Combat Veteran Riders from Fayetteville led the procession to the pavilion, with three Freightliner “Ride of Pride” trucks following.

Veterans from all branches of the armed forces attended the service — most, but not all, with white hair. Active-duty Army soldiers came from Fayetteville to attend.

Drye was laid to rest with a volley of gunfire, the playing of taps and the folding of the flag.

Drye did have a friend present at the service. Mark Blackwelder said Drye had been his friend since he was 13 years old and was a mentor and godfather to him.

“When my wife died three years ago, he helped me through it all,” Blackwelder said.

Mitch Carlyle of the funeral home delivered the eulogy.

“Family is more than where you were born, and all of you in attendance have shown you are family to him,” Carlyle said.

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